Outrage among Republicans towards their own party provides the backdrop for the 113th Congress as it convenes for the first time, ready to follow up the fiscal cliff crisis with a crisis of their own; the debt ceiling.
Can the 113th be less effective?
When Rep. John Boehner (R) took the title of House Majority Leader from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D), he was able to achieve something no other leader has; he led a congress that produced less legislation then any other since records were kept. Now, with the 112th done and the 113th starting anew, the Republicans could again re-earn that distinction through partisan tactics.
With lingering outrage over the inability to pass a broadly supported aid bill for Hurricane Sandy victims before the 112th Congress convened, House Republicans scramble to stay on message as they utilize the threat of defaulting on our debt to force spending cut legislation.
Understanding the debt ceiling
The debt ceiling is one of those quirky U.S. government things that is uncommon among the rest of the developed world. Essentially, Congress is allowed to borrow money to fund its’ legal obligations (i.e. for military salaries). Under the Republican majority in the House, Congress then borrows that money and pays its' bills. In order to account for the money that has already been borrowed, congress must then raise the debt ceiling accordingly.
Not raising the debt ceiling is equivalent to borrowing money, spending it, and then telling your loan company that you don’t want to honor the loan because your spending is out of control.
Failure to raise the debt ceiling means the United States goes into default on its’ loans; something that would have a global economic impact.
When inexperienced Tea Party congressman came to the House in 2011, they threatened to hold the debt ceiling hostage unless their demands for spending cuts were met. The ongoing debate about the debt ceiling led to the country’s first credit downgrade in its’ history and caused a dramatic economic free-fall, including a 635 point drop in one day at the New York Stock Exchange.
Two years later, Republicans are making similar statements about the debt ceiling that they did in 2011. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Twitter:
“The debt ceiling fight is where we can make major spending changes and prevent the country from becoming Greece.”
Look to see Republicans using the debt ceiling to rebound from the perceived Democratic victory of the fiscal cliff.