Nothing takes the fun out of cutting spending like Obama proposing to do it.
The House Republicans are contemplating a new budget-hostage strategy, the the Washington Post reports in a story that is both highly useful and inadvertently Onion-esque. The hallmark of Onion news reporting is conveying insanity as if it were sane in a completely deadpan way. The news contained within the story is that the House GOP is thinking of tying the next increase in the debt ceiling to tax reform. Under this proposed strategy, the Post reports, “The debt limit might be raised for only a few months, with the promise of another increase when tax reform legislation passes the Senate.”
If you didn’t fall out of your chair when reading that apparently anodyne sentence, let me explain why you should have. In 2011, House Republicans undertook a novel and radically new dangerous political tactic of using the debt limit as a political bargaining chip. Before, the opposition party had treated the debt limit increase as a necessary step, though one they would posture over and use to flay the administration. (Senator Barack Obama followed this pattern.) The Republicans instead decided to actually threaten not to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama granted them policy concessions. This was extraordinarily risky. By mixing together a vote that was needed to prevent economic calamity with inherently contentious debates over the size of government, it turned routine budget disputes into a financial Cuban Missile Crisis.
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