The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus talked to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week about a variety of fiscal issues, most notably sequestration. But when the discussion turned to the debt ceiling, which will need to be raised in May, Marcus said she assumed Republicans would want to avoid this crisis.
"Not this time," the right-wing congressman said, before Marcus could even finish her sentence. "The debt problem is getting worse," Ryan said. "We're not leaving this session of Congress until we have a down payment on the problem."
Of course, we already have a down payment on long-term debt issue, since President Obama has already approved $2.5 trillion in debt reduction, and that figure would be much higher if Republicans would agree to a simple compromise.
But the larger takeaway here is that congressional Republicans, at least rhetorically, claim to be prepared -- again -- to crash the economy and trash the full faith and credit of the United States unless their as-yet-unstated demands are met. Indeed, it's not just Ryan -- a House Republican aide, asked if the GOP would demand ransom in order to do their duty, said today, "Stay tuned."
Greg Sargent explained the larger context.
Ever since Obama signaled that he supports extending funding of the government past the shutdown deadline of March 27th at the levels agreed to in the 2011 Budget Control Act -- which would continue funding at the lower sequester levels, since the sequester will be operative -- it has been more or less a foregone conclusion that this is what's going to happen. House Republicans have rolled out legislation to continue funding the government at the sequester levels through September, with some steps taken to mitigate damage to defense. It seems likely that Democrats will accept this, or that they will push their own minor changes to the non-defense side and that some kind of deal will be reached with Republicans to keep that funding going. Either way, the funding of the government will continue at the lower level,That brings us to the debt ceiling hike next month as the point around which the next fight could take place.
For the record, I rather doubt GOP leaders will be willing to push a debt-ceiling crisis so soon after the last one. In fact, as you'll recall, Republicans all but admitted a couple of months ago that they were bluffing and weren't actually going to allow the nation to default, and it's awfully tough to go back to Democrats with this message: "Sure, we were bluffing in January, but this time we're really prepared to hurt Americans on purpose." Dems might be skeptical.
And for those who saw Friday's show and are wondering which storm name the debt-ceiling standoff will get, I am, of course, referring to Gertrude.