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Senate Republicans Acting Like Ferengis Over Debt Ceiling Passage

September 20, 2021

Anyone watching the markets on Monday can easily grasp the nervousness of investors. One of the pressing issues creating red is the all-too-real risks that surround the deepening standoff between Democrats and Republicans over funding the federal government and raising the debt ceiling.

At issue is what now has become the default action of Congress with the need to pass a short-term spending bill so to prevent a government shut-down. But also needing immediate attention is the passage of the debt limit measure. That our political dysfunction has deepened to such a degree that budgets are no longer able to be fashioned in an orderly process or the one line debt limit language not able to fly through Congress speaks volumes about how governing has come off the rails.

No sane person anywhere in the nation, or for that matter in the world, who understands the gravity of the debt limit discussion, thinks that not acting at once on this measure is a good idea. The government runs out of funding on September 30th.

But that has not stopped Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from playing partisan football with the issue. He has insisted that his caucus will not cooperate with the passage of the debt limit. There is always an attempt from the GOP to get something for the very act of doing their job when it comes to increasing the debt ceiling.

The legal limit for what the federal government can borrow to avoid defaulting on its obligations should not be up for discussion but the Ferengi-like Republicans all try. Their desire to acquire something from every encounter makes them very much akin to the Star Trek creations.

Republicans have no leg to stand on as this is not about what the nation will spend, but rather paying for our debts which were accumulated over the years under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Why this matters is that there is a clock ticking.

The Treasury Department issues bonds to fund spending approved by the president and Congress beyond what is covered by federal revenue. But when we reach the debt limit, the Treasury is no longer authorized to issue new bonds. At that point as it needs to be reported each time this happens Treasury must take “extraordinary measures” until the president signs a bill a new debt limit increase.

Why we have every reason to be cranked with conservative Republicans is that raising the debt limit has no direct impact on the size of the national debt. It has no impact either for more spending or freezing or restricting spending. The only thing that increasing the debt limit does is pay expenses previously authorized by presidents and Congress.

But the Ferengis in Congress will fight and pontificate and try to force their way to get something before they will do what is simply the only logical action to take.

Increase the debt limit.

The Republicans know they are playing with fire. And in the end, they will fold, as they must do. Our nation has never defaulted on its debt, and doing so would create an economic catastrophe on a global scale that would make Ted Cruz’s facial hair turn even whiter overnight.

How Republicans who tout their love of business and the bottom line can miss the point about the need to raise the debt limit is totally befuddling. Failure to do so could hurt America’s international standing and push up borrowing costs.

I write on this matter more than I wish were needed. When it comes to the debt limit there has never been any doubt as to where I stand. It would still be the soundest move to pursue a deal that would permanently remove the requirement that Congress repeatedly raise the debt ceiling. That would be good news for the nation. But Republicans, being the Ferengis they naturally are, would be most scornful of such an outcome.

After all, the GOP would then not be able to hold the nation hostage in the future.

And so it goes.

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