There’s a painfully obvious problem with the Republicans’ debt ceiling hostage crisis: GOP lawmakers intend to cause an economic catastrophe, on purpose, unless their demands are met. Making the painfully obvious problem worse, Republicans, at least for now, don’t want to tell anyone what their demands are — in large part because they haven't figured it out for themselves.
But there’s a related concern that’s gone largely overlooked: There are some in the party who are prepared to harm the hostage even if Democrats were to agree to pay some kind of ransom. CNN reported overnight:
“No,” Rep. Greg Pence, an Indiana Republican, said when asked by CNN if he would vote for a debt ceiling increase if it included “every” one of his priorities. “That’s what I hear back home.”
The video of the exchange was striking, in part because of the Hoosier’s obstinacy.
When reporter Manu Raju brought up the debt ceiling, and started to ask, “Any chance you’d vote for...” Pence interrupted. “No,” the GOP congressman declared emphatically.
Raju tried to clarify matters, asking, “Even if you...” at which point Pence interrupted again. “No,” he said again, with equal emphasis.
Determined, the reporter kept pressing, asking the Republican if he’d vote for a debt ceiling increase that addressed “every” one of his priorities. “No,” Pence reiterated with a smile, adding, “That’s what I hear back home. It’s time to do something about that.”
The congressman didn’t elaborate on what “that” was in reference to.
Part of the problem with a position like this is that it’s quite dangerous given the circumstances. To hear Pence tell it, he’s opposed to doing the right thing on the debt ceiling no matter what the measure includes — because that’s apparently what he’s “heard” from his constituents.
I won’t pretend to know the details of the conversations the congressman has had with the fine folks of Indiana’s 6th congressional district, but Pence’s explanation for his position is underwhelming. What the congressman’s constituents want is for the United States to default on its debts and obligations? No matter what?
Has he told them about the consequences of the economic disaster that would soon follow if the country defaults?
But nearly as notable is the challenge Pence is creating for the broader process. To hear GOP leaders tell it, the key to resolving the crisis that Republicans are choosing to impose on the nation is negotiations: The party wants to sit down, have talks with Democrats, and determine just how high a price the governing party will pay to convince Republicans not to hurt Americans on purpose.
Pence, however, has taken a very different line: No matter what, he’ll oppose allowing the United States to pay its bills.
The question for Democrats then becomes, why negotiate with a party whose members have already decided to do the wrong thing? How does a party avoid default while dealing with a rival party that has a contingent that’s effectively pro-default?