House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gestures as he walks through a basement corridor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

When GOP hostage taking gets farcical

Updated
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who over the weekend signaled yet another debt-ceiling crisis in 2014, told a conservative radio host yesterday:
“With respect to the debt limit, you and I and our colleagues are going to have to meet early after the holidays to decide what’s the right course going forward in that. We’ve never just done nothing.”
Um, congressman? Not only has Congress approved clean debt-ceiling increases literally dozens of times, the Republican-led House passed a clean debt-ceiling increase just two months ago.
 
I realize that Paul Ryan has the worst memory in American politics, but are we to believe the House Budget Committee chairman, ostensibly Congress’ top Republican wonk and a man billed by the political establishment as one of his party’s brightest lights, doesn’t remember debt-ceiling developments from October?
 
GOP debt-ceiling posturing has clearly reached farcical levels already, and we’re still several months from an actual vote. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said in October that he doesn’t intend to spark another crisis, is now saying the opposite.
 
Jon Chait asked the right question: “Are the Republicans really going to try this again?”
Unlike the last debt-ceiling hostage crisis, which resulted from explicable (though disturbing) internal party dynamics, the prospect of a new round of threats seems bizarre. We tested this threat a couple of months ago. Republicans swore up and down they would refuse to lift the debt ceiling unless they got concessions, and President Obama swore up and down he wouldn’t give concessions.
 
The result was in no way ambiguous. There were no concessions. Not a future commission, not a show vote, not handwritten letters. Zip. Obama tested the Republican willingness to trigger a worldwide economic meltdown to obtain concessions, and it turned out, they won’t pull the trigger. How on Earth they think they can try this bluff again, I can’t imagine.
Even on a strategic level, this is folly – why would Republicans, in an election year, position themselves for a fight in which they inevitably will have to cave?
 
And as Rachel noted on the show last night, the timing is especially ridiculous, since Congress is poised to pass a budget: lawmakers are approving the spending in December and may balk when the bill comes due in March?
 

Debt Ceiling, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan

When GOP hostage taking gets farcical

Updated