Hostage Takers

Capitol DomeI’ve almost lost count, but today the House of Representatives will vote for the  42nd or 43rd time to repeal the Affordable Care Act.   On this occasion the hostage is the national debt ceiling — a singularly inappropriate captive.

The Hostage

The conservative rejoinder is that the failure to raise the debt ceiling merely puts the brakes to any additional government borrowing. [WSJ] We could, argue the apologists for Congressional hostage taking, pay for our debt service with current revenues.  Uh, that would be “no:” the debt limit simply allows the Treasury to borrow the funds to finance spending that past Congresses and presidents already have undertaken.  In other words, it has no impact on future spending or taxes.” [TDB]  The Council on Foreign Relations replies:

“The government must be able to issue new debt as long as it continues to run a budget deficit. The debt limit, or “ceiling,” sets the maximum amount of outstanding federal debt the U.S. government can incur by law. As of January 2013, this number stands at $16.39 trillion. Increasing the debt limit does not enlarge the nation’s financial commitments, but allows the government to fund obligations already legislated by Congress.”

and this does have consequences:

“Many analysts say congressional gridlock over the debt limit will likely sow significant uncertainty in the bond markets and place upward pressure on interest rates. Rate increases would not only hike future borrowing costs of the federal government, but would also raise capital costs for struggling U.S. businesses and cash-strapped homebuyers. In addition, rising rates could divert future taxpayer money away from much-needed federal investments in such areas as infrastructure, education, and health care.” [CFR]

The Ransom Note

The Republicans would like very much to halt the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act — before people decide they like it.  They already like it if it’s called the Affordable Care Act.  Polling indicates the public likes the major provisions of the law when specific questions are asked.  [113C2013] [TP/Gallup] [Gallup] [NPR] [WaPo]

However, that’s not the only message in the ransom note — there’s the controversial Keystone Pipeline added to the mix, to transport oil from Canada to international port facilities in Texas.  [TheHill]

The Hostage Takers

While superficially this looks like the Republicans vs. the Democrats, or the House Republicans vs. the President, the battle is between segments of the GOP, and  might be better observed as comedian John Fugelsang quipped: “It’s Syria and Iraq shoved in a Cuisinart.”

The right wing of the GOP faces off with Speaker John Boehner, Boehner faces off with his pragmatic cohorts; Senator Cruz (R-Alberta) faces off with Senator Harry Reid, and his House colleagues are beside themselves…

The Tea Party Republicans will throw their latest tantrum, it will do nothing and go nowhere, except toward creating the very “uncertainty” in the markets they so often decry.

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