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Posted by on Jan 14, 2013 in Economy, Featured, Politics | 16 comments

Report: House Republican Majority Prepared to Default If Don’t Get Their Way (UPDATED)

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

I’ve noted here the past few years that rank partisanship and the idea that ideology and political triumph is the number one goal has made many “givens” in American politics “ungivens.” Remove the “given” that House Republicans in the end will be unwilling to default. The Politico reports that House Republicans are fully prepared to do two things that could decimate the economy and negatively impact millions of Americans if the Obama administration doesn’t declare surrender on their demands:
House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or

shutting down the government, to force President Barack Obama to finally cut spending by the end of March.

The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told us. “We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.”

Why not try it? I mean, it worked out really well for Newt Gingrich when he was speaker. Or did it?

Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

Shall we run that paragraph again so it sinks in what is being said and what it says about a)how Republican leadership views the impact on everyday Americans of a shut down (it’s not a factor) and b)it’s all about keeping their seats in power, not doing what is good for the country. Just so I don’t get emails, here it is again:

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”


The country would eventually default if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit, which the Treasury estimates will hit in late February or early March. The government would shut down if House Republicans instead were to refuse to extend the law funding current government operations on March 27.

On a personal note, I continue to be amazed — frankly it does not compete with me — how elected officials who have healthy bank accounts, homes, most likely trust funds, get government health insurance, eat fancy meals in Congress dining rooms, had expense accounts, etc. could seemingly care so little about the bulk of Americans.

A shutdown and particularly a default will have consequences TO THE COUNTY’S ECONOMY.

If it looks like default:
–GOPers will have to pull back in the end OR
–The Obama administration will have to give in which will set a precedent for the equivilent of economic blackmail being successfully used as a tool to attain partisan and ideological goals. AND
–The negative impact to the U.S. economy by either of these moves will likely ensure a big Democratic turnout in 2014 because by now it has probably sunk in to Dems that historically they lose seats in non-Presidential years when they are in power. A setback to the economy for ideological reasons would be a boon to not just Democratic fundraising but getting people out during a non-election year. And Republicans would be wise if they used a pollster different than Mitt Romney’s this time. AND
–The Republicans if they take either of these courses will score points with Fox News, talk show hosts and conservative bloggers but will make no inroads in attracting more voters to their tent. They could lose some since GOPers who have businesses would be impacted by the economic consequences.

The most important point here is, we’re close to a point where we need to throw out all “givens” about how American politics has functioned in the end for the common good. What seems most important to some folks who have power is to use power in a way that we have not seen in our history: as economic blackmail to they can please people for ideological reasons in their districts to hold their seats.

The question now is: is the Obama administration ready for what is no longer a wild scenario but quite probable?

UPDATE: For some more thoughts (and good links from others) be sure to read Doug Mataconis.

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  • merkin

    Rather than threatening default why don’t the Republicans prove that they are serious about cutting spending by actually proposing some spending cuts?

    I am sure that some of the Republican Congressmen who have been in Congress for a long time can remember how to write a proposed bill and how to submit it for consideration. If not there is a snappy little cartoon explaining the process that should be easy to find on YouTube.

  • I simply don’t get it. To avoid some perceived dystopian future (under President “Barack Mao-bama”), the House GOP will allow for conditions to occur that would bring about said dystopian future more easily. If they were so concerned for the future of the US, I would expect them to work TOGETHER with other members of Congress while still exerting some of their ideology. I don’t want nor need them to be Democrats, but I do want them to act sanely. Living in the Southeast, I have had trouble finding sane GOP-members (not suggesting that the Democrats are significantly better).

  • slamfu

    I still can’t believe these idiots are planning on doing this. As mentioned defaulting is a quick way not just to tank our economy but Europe’s and no doubt the rest of the world won’t be far behind. The GOP is spitting out misinformation on this just like they did for Obamacare. If you ask your average GOP voter they had no idea what the ACA was about, and thought it was single payer socialist govt takeover. If you ask the average GOP voter today I have little doubt they would mistakenly believe it is a deficit negotiation, and not in fact the act of simply paying for things that have already been spent. I blame the GOP for willfully misleading the public, AGAIN, to get support for insanity like this.

    And don’t anyone even bother deflecting this with implications that “they do it to”. Only the GOP would be this nuts and irresponsible. That party is seriously sick and run by people that are playing russian roulette without a plan.

  • Willwright

    I think most of this is just posturing to their base and that saner heads will prevail. They know who will get blamed for any negative fallout. If they pull this and it blows up in their faces then they know only thing they have accomplished is their own political suicide. The dangers to the GOP must be apparent even to them.

  • Will, I’m not so sure your assessment is correct for a large number of the GOP congressmen or the common present-day GOP voter (though I agree there are likely a number of GOP Senators that understand the gravity of the situation more). While I don’t hang on every single one of Bill Maher’s words, he is astute in pointing out the bubble in which they live, receive information, and operate. Should our credit be downgraded again, Hannity simply needs to blame it on Obama (which will either be a parroted notion, or will be echoed by other conservative media stand-outs, and will henceforth become gospel) and the rank-and-file will take it without a hint that their party was responsible. Such is the state of the GOP today.

  • dduck

    will is right.

  • slamfu

    I hope Will is right, but frankly I’m beyond being shocked by the stunts the GOP will pull. The Tea Party is the Honey Boo Boo of conservative politics and after some of the bills they’ve held up in the last few years I just don’t know anymore.

  • The_Ohioan

    They raised the national debt by $19,000,000,000.00 last time under Newt. God only knows how much this will cost us.

    They don’t want to say where the cuts would come from, they just want to rail about spending. Like Merkin said, tell us where you want the cuts to come from and we’ll see what your priorities are – and if we, and your Tea Party constituents, agree.

  • ShannonLeee

    This is there response to the trillion dollar coin proposal. Not smart.

  • sheknows

    What are the GOP complaining about now? Didn’t Obama sign the BCA and already agree to 1.5 T in spending cuts for Medicare and SS over the next 10 years? Short memories!!

    They are just pissed that they had to pay ANY increases on taxes. As much as the Reps would like to see SS and Medicare gutted..and have millions of people unable to pay THEIR bills for rent and medical care, the only thing they will accomplish is for the US to be unable to pay it’s bills.

    Their plan is to default and then blame Obama for not “playing fair” and making cuts, when in fact he already made considerable cuts. Hopefully HE won’t forget that when the time comes.

  • I think the coin idea was just posturing, and this might be also. It’s hard to take congressional threats all that seriously.

  • dduck

    Although other nasty things can happen with a default, I may be wrong, but I think bills have to be paid regardless.
    Still, it should not be allowed to happen. The Reps are cornered rats and the default threat is meant to start/intensify/get serious on cuts. I just wish the Reps would include defense, then I will know they are serious. (I can dream, can’t I?)

  • ordinarysparrow

    Simple solution… repeal the Pork legislation of 2010…. only the greater greed of money can overcome partisan greed…


  • Jim Satterfield

    Can’t you just see the fanatical gleam in the eye of those Republicans who think they are destroying the country in order to save it?

  • ShannonLeee

    Yikes, poor grammar. Their, not there. I hate it when I do that.

  • dduck

    I do it all the time.

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