Friday, January 27, 2023

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    Opinion: Hypocrisy to the max on debt ceiling- HindiNewsWala

    Editor’s Note: Charlie Dent, a CNN political commentator, is a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who chaired the House Ethics Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.


    So here we go again. Another dramatic, high-stakes debt ceiling debate is about to unfold. Not lost on the American people during these hypertension-inducing episodes is the stunning political hypocrisy revealed through debt ceiling kerfuffles.

    Charlie Dent

    This cannot be overstated. Republican debt ceiling purists, who swore a blood oath never to raise the debt ceiling during the Obama presidency, rolled over during the Trump presidency.

    Take Mick Mulvaney, who as a congressman and House Freedom Caucus member stubbornly fought Speaker John Boehner on debt ceiling increases, but as Office of Management and Budget director in the Trump administration did a complete reversal and advocated for raising the debt ceiling, bringing along many of his recalcitrant former colleagues. As they say, where one stands depends on where one sits — and when the seats change, so do the policy positions.

    In fact, I vividly remember a 2017 meeting in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office with a small cross-section of roughly 10 GOP conference members, including at least two from the Freedom Caucus. Ryan walked into the meeting and said he had just received a call from Mulvaney, now OMB director, who wanted us to vote yes on the debt ceiling.

    I immediately burst into laughter and quipped, “Only under one condition — Mick must come here in person and ask me to vote yes.” The debt ceiling was raised without incident.

    Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen ignited the conversation by announcing America’s outstanding debt reached its statutory limit of $31.4 trillion last week. For now, Yellen will exercise her authority to implement extraordinary measures to prevent a catastrophic default, which would set off a chain of devastating events on the American economy and global financial system.

    The full faith and credit of the US government would be undermined if Congress fails to act in a timely manner. Unemployment would rise, and interest rates would spike. Yellen’s extraordinary measures buys Congress some time but does not relieve it of the responsibility to take action.

    The debt ceiling battles over the past 12 years will help inform the current debate. Especially in divided government, the politics are more poisonous and battles more pitched than with one-party control of both the presidency and Congress.

    I sat in the room for so many of these fights that all ended, predictably and dramatically, with the debt ceiling being raised. No one with an ounce of sense could fathom crashing through this roof. Today I’m considerably less confident that Congress will do what it must to prevent an unthinkable outcome.

    Twelve years ago, and under pressure from some firebrand members elected during the tea party wave, Boehner and then-President Barack Obama negotiated the Budget Control Act of 2011 that established a super committee charged with reforming mandatory spending as a condition to raise the debt ceiling.

    Naturally, the committee failed in its task, which resulted in “sequestration,” across-the-board reductions for discretionary spending on both defense and domestic programs over 10 years, which Congress routinely waived. The drama leading up to the 2011 debt ceiling agreement rattled markets and caused a downgrade in America’s credit rating by some rating agencies.

    After an insanely disruptive government shutdown during October 2013, the debt ceiling was raised as part of an agreement to reopen the government. In the winter of 2014, the debt ceiling was lifted again but without too much drama in anticipation of the upcoming midterm election.

    A frustrated and exasperated Boehner, in a closed-door meeting in his office, politely asked for House Republican volunteers to vote for a clean debt ceiling increase. I was one of fewer than 30 who dutifully responded to his request and joined Democrats to prevent yet another meaningless high-stakes drama.

    In 2015, the debt limit was temporarily suspended as part of yet another budget agreement.

    During President Donald Trump’s first year in office, 2017, the debt ceiling was raised as part of an agreement tied to emergency relief for hurricane relief.

    So what should Americans expect from the impending debt ceiling battle of 2023? Answer: a rerun of the previous battles. House Republicans will insist spending cuts be tied to any increase in the debt ceiling, while President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats will resist any negotiations.

    Further, House Republicans will advance legislation to prioritize debt payments to placate hard-liners in the GOP conference who have no intention of voting to increase the debt limit. This prioritization scheme, while facilitating interest payments and funding for a few other major programs, would not prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations to key constituencies and stakeholders. There simply isn’t enough money to pay everyone without raising the debt limit.

    The politics of debt prioritization won’t pass the smell test either when creditors in China and other nations are paid but, say, Border Patrol agents or air traffic controllers are not. Danger, danger. In 2015, I was one of fewer than 10 House Republicans who voted against such a shambolic prioritization proposal that does not seriously address the underlying problem of balancing or better aligning current federal spending with existing revenues.

    Expectations of a negotiated settlement over the debt ceiling along the lines proposed by House Republicans seem remote. Consequently, the burden will fall upon pragmatic House Republicans such as Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Don Bacon to find a bipartisan solution.

    A reboot of the Simpson-Bowles fiscal reform commission could be a way for Congress to address the deficit and long-term debt in a responsible manner without risking the full faith and credit of the United States.

    If, as expected, debt ceiling negotiations fail to yield an agreement by the drop-dead date established by Yellen, probably this summer, then some problem-solving House Republicans along with Democrats will likely deploy a discharge petition to force a clean debt ceiling bill out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote.

    As someone who was involved with the last successful discharge petition in 2015 over the Export-Import Bank reauthorization, this procedural mechanism is complex and slow-moving.

    The debt ceiling has been raised repeatedly over recent decades. I fully expect it will be raised once again, but not until every other alternative is rejected. Let’s hope it happens before any real damage is done to America’s standing and the global economy.

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