Hello! It’s the weekend, this is The Weekender. ☕
Like clockwork, now that a Democrat is in the White House and Republicans seem well-positioned to take back a chamber of Congress, the GOP has decided to care about wanton government spending again.
They’ll express this deeply-held concern — which, for some reason, absented itself during the Trump administration — by holding the debt ceiling hostage, which they wrongly link to future spending. In reality, it’s authorizing the Treasury Department to make good on financial obligations that have already been appropriated.
Republican members will decide that they won’t raise or suspend the debt ceiling, threatening to let the United States default on its debt and almost certainly trigger a global financial crisis. In exchange, they’ll extort the Democratic President for stuff they want: sometimes slashing government programs, sometimes defunding the Affordable Care Act. This time, they’re planning to demand cuts to Medicare and Social Security, a staggeringly unpopular policy position.
Republicans have never pulled the trigger and, since 2011 when Democrats unwisely negotiated with them, have mostly capitulated after standoffs of varying periods. But as the party gets wrenched ever further to the right, these threats only get more dangerous.
And even feigning like they might let the country default has consequences: In 2011, the United States’ credit score was downgraded, and experts say that the threat hobbled the country’s economic recovery from the Great Recession.
Democrats still have time to stop it, if they can muster the support and energy. Through reconciliation, unilaterally, they could hike the debt ceiling so high that there’s no danger of bumping up against it.
While surely irksome that it falls to Democrats to save Republicans from themselves, the dangers if they don’t are real and manifest.
More on other news below. Let’s dig in.