Will Republicans tell more lies about the debt ceiling?



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (see illustration) said something the other day about how congressional action on raising the federal government’s debt ceiling won’t likely happen before March of next year.

I can hardly wait. I’m eager to see if McConnell and his current crop of Republican lawmakers resort to the kind of demagoguery their brethren of six years employed during a previous political battle over the debt ceiling. Democrat Barack Obama was president back then, and his GOP enemies in Congress were all quite sure that they could defeat his bid for a second term if they could sell enough lies about him.

Republican John Boehner,  Speaker of the House at the time, tried his best to convince Americans that raising the debt ceiling would allow the Obama administration to spend more freely, to come up with more programs that will cost taxpayers ever more money. He warned against giving the president “a blank check,” a term he had to know was bogus. But, of course, he also had to know that such rhetoric played well among the boobs who didn’t understand the first thing about what the debt ceiling is and how it works.

Here’s the real deal:

Raising the debt ceiling only allows the government to pay the bills it already has incurred. It does not allow Obama or Donald Trump  or anyone else to spend even one penny that Congress has not already appropriated.

Spending bills emanate from the House of Representatives, which currently is controlled by a Republican majority, as it was when Obama was president. He was not free to conjure new spending programs without specific consent of the House (and concurrence by the Senate). To suggest otherwise, as Republicans did back then, was to lie to the American people.

In another example of this same kind of dishonesty,  the Republican National Committee launched a fundraising effort in 2011 with a mass-mailing that bore this headline: “Stop Obama’s Blank Check.” Recipients of the letter were asked to contribute whatever they could spare to the RNC to aid in its efforts to take away that non-existent blank check.

The danger in not raising the debt ceiling is that it would result in America defaulting on its financial obligations. The consequences of that would include a lowering of the government’s credit rating and an increase in interest rates, which would make it more difficult for ordinary Americans to buy homes or cars and more difficult for businesses to expand or retool or otherwise take steps to create more jobs.

John Boehner understood all of this. But he also understood that false rhetoric about blank checks for the big spenders gets the nation’s know-nothings all excited and more likely to support the Republican cause.

The GOPers were playing a cynical game back then. Will they play it again with a Republican in the White House?