EDITORIAL: Hypocritical or not, GOP has leverage

Jan. 21—U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona offers a perfect example of the sort of hypocrisy now on display among congressional Republicans.

"We cannot raise the debt ceiling," he tweeted. "Democrats have carelessly spent our taxpayer money and devalued our currency. They've made their bed, so they must lie in it."

David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida, had a different take.

"For context," he said, "roughly 25% of our total national debt incurred over the last 230 years actually occurred during the four years of the Trump administration. That's right. 25% of our entire national debt, all during the Trump years."

Jolly went on to say that in the first 210 years of our nation's history, the United States racked up $5 trillion in debt. It had doubled that number by the end of the George W. Bush administration and doubled it again in eight years under Barack Obama.

The Trump administration added almost $8 trillion.

And lest we blame the pandemic for the debt accumulated under Donald J. Trump, Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell points out that $4.7 trillion of that deficit spending came before the pandemic.

"GOP concerns about deficits are like cicadas," she tweeted. "They hide underground for years at a time. ... Then, when there's a change in the ecosystem — that is, a Democrat enters the White House — they bust out and wreak havoc."

So maybe you can understand why Joe Biden might be reluctant to negotiate with these so-called fiscal conservatives. Where were they when Republicans were pushing through tax cuts and running up record debt?

The whole thing is galling. Republicans voted to increase the debt ceiling three times when Trump was in office. There was no crisis. No one was talking about shutting down the government.

These guardians of the national purse strings are like the guy who maxes out all of his credit cards and buys a house and a car he can't afford. He can't dig out of that hole by refusing to pay his bills. His creditors won't go for that.

If he stops making payments, creditors will take his house and his car and ruin his credit rating. He'll have a hard time getting another loan, and when he does, the interest rate will be significantly higher.

So the Republican position on the national debt is far from reasonable. Our government can't simply say it borrowed too much and stop paying its bills.

Nevertheless, Biden has to come to the bargaining table. Reasonable or not, Republicans are in charge of the U.S. House of Representatives. They can, if they choose, hold hostage the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Ideally, the administration could reach an agreement to end this charade once and for all. Perhaps the two sides could strike a deal to do away with the debt limit. Even better, Republicans and Democrats could find a way to bring spending in line with revenues, so that the U.S. Treasury Department could meet its obligations without using smoke and mirrors to keep our nation's creditors at bay.

Is that too much to ask? Probably so.

Still, the Biden administration has to try. It has no choice.