On one hand, we applaud Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 10 of his fellow Republicans for their vote to keep the United States, at least temporarily, from defaulting on its debts.
On the other hand, we can’t help but express exasperation at the repeated game of chicken our elected representatives seem so determined to play with our nation’s financial stability.
For those just tuning in, the U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval last week to legislation temporarily raising the government’s borrowing limit to $28.9 trillion. The party-line vote put off until December the next crisis over whether our country will honor its debts.
McConnell had insisted Democrats would have to go it alone to head off the debt crisis, but with the clock ticking toward the deadline, the senior senator from Kentucky finally blinked, giving Democrats the votes they needed to end a filibuster and raise the debt limit with a simple majority in both houses of Congress..
Republicans insist Democrats should take sole responsibility for raising the debt limit because their party wants to spend trillions of dollars to expand social programs and tackle climate change. Democrats say the increased borrowing authority is needed largely to cover the cost of tax cuts and spending programs the Republicans approved under then-President Donald J. Trump, also a Republican.
The fight comes with both sides looking toward the November 2022 congressional elections, when Republicans hope to reclaim majorities in both the House and Senate.
Democrats are afraid of campaign ads accusing them of reckless spending. They counter that Republicans risk crashing the economy just to score political points.
McConnell has already sent President Joe Biden a letter warning he won’t blink again. “I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement,” he wrote.
During the Trump administration, Congress raised the debt limit three times with the support of Democrats, even though Democrats opposed many of the initiatives that expanded the debt.
One proposal Democrats have floated is to let the Treasury Department lift the debt ceiling unless Congress takes action to block such a move. It’s an idea worth considering.
Frankly, making good on our nation’s financial obligations is a bipartisan responsibility that deserves a bipartisan solution. We certainly support the two parties in their ongoing debate about spending priorities. We can also understand a standoff over tax policy.
But the money that makes up our nation’s debt is no longer open to debate. It’s money the government has already spent.
This really shouldn’t be about politics. It’s about the full faith and credit of the United States.