About 10 years ago, in the midst of one of the Republicans’ many government shutdowns, the GOP found itself in a difficult situation. The party and its leaders were excited about their shutdown scheme, and they expected to gain some concessions from the Obama White House. Republicans just couldn’t quite settle on a specific plan.
Then-Rep. Marlin Stutzman summarized his party’s thinking in a memorable way. “We have to get something out of this,” the Indiana Republican said. “And I don’t know what that even is.”
It was one of my favorite quotes of the period because it helped capture the GOP’s post-policy approach to governing. Democrats asked Republicans what they wanted to end the crisis, and the GOP effectively responded, “Something.” Asked if they could be more specific, Republicans replied, "Make us an offer and we'll let you know if we're satisfied."
Republicans, newly empowered with a House majority, are demanding spending cuts as a price for lifting the debt ceiling and averting a catastrophic default on U.S. debt. But they’re struggling to identify what to cut, complicating Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s task of passing a bill with his narrow majority.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who’s suddenly allied with the new House speaker, told NBC News, “There’s gotta be cuts in spending. That has to happen.” Asked what should be cut, the right-wing Republican added, “I haven’t really formulated an exact list.”
The rest of her party hasn’t, either. As we discussed earlier in the week, some in the GOP want to pursue cuts to social-insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare; others do not. Some want to present a detailed hostage note; others want Democrats to go first with an offer. Some see the Pentagon budget as fair game; others have ruled it out.
McCarthy sat down with Donald Trump Jr. yesterday and said the party “won’t touch Medicare or Social Security” as part of the debt ceiling process. How would Republicans balance the budget while leaving Social Security, Medicare, the Defense Department, veterans’ benefits, and existing tax rates unchanged? That’s effectively impossible, and no one in the GOP has even tried to explain how they might achieve such a goal.
Rep. Chip Roy, meanwhile, declared a few days ago that he intends to use the debt ceiling crisis to pursue a border security plan. What does that have to do with spending cuts and balanced budgets? Nothing, but the Texas Republican apparently concluded that if the ransom note is blank, he might as well make a push to add his own priorities.
It might be tempting to laugh at the absurdity of it all, but the GOP is threatening our economic stability. This isn’t a game. If McCarthy, Greene, and their colleagues were to impose a deliberate economic catastrophe on the country and the world, the consequences would be painful and real.
What’s scarier than Republicans launching a debt ceiling crisis? Republicans launching a debt ceiling crisis without anything resembling an actual plan.