A debt ceiling deal should never have required the angst or the acrobatics that it did. Under Donald Trump, the ceiling was raised three times without any hostage-taking or preconditions of any kind. Though Trump broke his campaign promise to wipe out our national debt, instead expanding it by almost $7.8 trillion, mostly thanks to GOP tax cuts for those who needed help the least, we heard no arias about death and destruction then. But crying about that now is a waste of energy.
Maybe President Joe Biden should have used the 14th Amendment or found another way to go around Congress, as even Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said he would have been tempted to do. “I think if I were president,” Hawley said, “I would be tempted to do that. Because I would just be like, ‘Listen, I’m not gonna let us default. So end of story. Y’all will do whatever you want to do.’ But I’m not necessarily giving him that advice. It’s against my interest.” No matter who on the left or right gave Biden that advice, it was never going to happen, because that’s not who our moderate, institutionalist president is.
The deal that he and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy eventually did cut has some serious flaws. Fewer people will get the food aid they need as a result; instead of lifting “people out of poverty into the workforce,” as McCarthy insists, it will mostly disqualify people who are either already working or are taking care of a family member from assistance. It will do harm to the environment, and cuts $1.4 billion that would otherwise have been used to go after high-end tax cheats.
That it could have been far worse is not much comfort, and neither is the fact that the far right is screaming that they were once again outflanked by the supposed drooling fool they just keep underestimating.
The best thing about the deal is that we won’t be put through this absurd and dangerous exercise again for two years.
If Congress fails to approve it, though, the result would be catastrophic. We can correct its failings later, but can never go back and undo the permanent damage that would be done by a default.
That should make a “no” vote unthinkable, but of course does not. In fact, there are holdouts in both parties.
Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall said he hasn’t decided what he’ll do, because the deal as written doesn’t do enough to reduce the debt he so happily voted for when Trump was in office. “I think the jury’s still out,” he told reporters on Tuesday. Also, time will tell, it remains to be seen, and stay tuned?
“I think we’re still breaking it apart and trying to see what’s in it and what’s not in it as well,” Marshall said. The only decision at this point is whether or not to blow up the global economy, and that should not be a toughie, even for him.
Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids said she is glad there is a deal, but was not so bold as to come out and say that she would vote for it: “I do need to continue to dig into the specifics. We were provided the language and I’m currently going over that with my team.”
As opposed to the alternative, what’s there to go over? In a world of hard calls, this is not one of them.