Yesterday’s reports about House Republicans crafting a farcical debt-ceiling ransom note weren’t just speculative. By mid-day, GOP leaders had put their proposal on paper and presented it to their rank-and-file members. It’s as profoundly ridiculous as we’d been led to believe.
As a legislative exercise, this is quite literally laughable, though the laundry list of far-right goodies does offer some important lessons. For one thing, House Republicans have gone bonkers to a degree the political establishment has yet to fully appreciate. For another, GOP leaders seem to believe they can use extortion to advance an entire agenda that was rejected by the American electorate less than a year ago in national elections.
But take a closer look at the list and another realization comes into focus: Republicans used to maintain the pretense that fighting over the debt ceiling was an opportunity to tackle debt reduction, but as of this week, they’ve dropped the facade. As Josh Barro noted, “Republicans are out with a list of demands for raising the debt ceiling, many of which have little or no connection to the federal debt.”
If there are still some political observers who believe congressional Republicans are mature, responsible officials, serious about governing, I’d respectfully disagree.
The nonsensical ransom note, however, isn’t the funny part. This is.
House Republican leaders found themselves struggling to secure the votes on Thursday for a debt-ceiling measure they hoped to pass swiftly through the House as the latest salvo in a multifront fiscal fight.
Yes, unhinged GOP leaders, hoping to placate an unhinged caucus, put together an unhinged wish list filled with practically everything an unhinged lawmaker could want – and they still don’t have the votes to pass the darn thing.
Why in the world would House Republicans balk at a ridiculous debt-ceiling bill designed specifically to make them happy? A couple of reasons, actually.
Many GOP lawmakers want to use the debt-ceiling hostage crisis to slash public investments – in other words, focus on debt reduction – and are unimpressed with the plan that largely ignores far-right fiscal concerns.
Other Republicans, meanwhile, apparently see an opportunity. If GOP leaders are loading up the debt-ceiling bill with treats, some Republicans realize that if they withhold their support, maybe the leadership will add additional treats intended to make them even happier. You’re a far-right lawmaker with some pet issue? Tell the caucus leadership that you’ll support their debt-ceiling extortion scheme just as soon as that issue gets added to the mix.
Keep in mind, at some level, House Republicans must realize their ransom note will be ignored by the Senate and the White House, but they don’t care. They must also realize that they’re playing a dangerous game with our economic wellbeing, but at least for now, they don’t care about that, either.
It’s a party that has simply lost control.