There was some huffing at the Huffington Post on Wednesday over House Republicans’ reluctance to pass a clean debt limit increase. Contributing writer Mitchell Bard was glad that the increase was passed, but he was incensed that the vast majority of GOP congressmen (201 of 229) voted against it. He took out his frustrations in a post titled, “Lesson From the House Debt Ceiling Vote: The GOP Is the Tea Party.”
Bard railed against those 201 Republicans: “Voting against the debt ceiling isn't ‘conservative’; it's reckless, ideological, irresponsible and not something anyone charged with governing the nation should consider.” Following that logic, Barack Obama was reckless, ideological, and irresponsible in 2006 when, as a senator, he voted against a debt limit increase.
In fact, all 48 Senate Democrats at the time voted against raising the debt limit, while all 52 Republican senators voted for it. Republican President George W. Bush also supported the increase.
In this century, it has been standard practice for the president’s opponents in Congress to oppose raising the debt limit. According to the Tax Policy Center, Republican senators supplied almost all of the “yes” votes to raise the debt limit in 2003, 2004, and 2006, while virtually all Democrats voted “no.” The same scenario played out in the House in 2002 and 2004. But in 2009 and 2010, with Obama in the White House, the roles were reversed: almost all Democrats voted “yes,” and nearly all Republicans voted “no.”
So Bard was hyperventilating over the Republicans doing what an opposition party typically does. And if the increase ended up passing the House anyway, as it always has before, what is there to be angry about?
Putting on his detective hat, Bard speculated as to why those 201 House Republicans voted against the debt limit increase. The most likely explanation he came up with: “The House member wanted to use the possibility of a default as a tool to extort other favorable policy changes.”
This was not the first time Bard spoke of extortion. Near the beginning of his article, he wrote this: “For the first time since Republicans took control of the House in the 2010 elections, the bill was 'clean,' which is a euphemism for 'extortion-free.' That is, there were no spending cuts or other GOP-friendly items tacked on to the legislation.”
That gives you an idea of what Bard considers “extortion.” Republicans want to attach spending cuts to a debt limit hike to try to slow the growth of our debt, and that’s extortion? The problem is not that our debt limit is too low; it’s that our debt is too high. If Congress were to put the brakes on our government’s out-of-control spending, there may come a day when we won’t have to argue about raising the debt ceiling, because our debt will finally have stopped rising.
But Bard didn’t say anything in his article about the actual debt. He focused solely on America’s need to “fulfill its already agreed-to obligations” and lawmakers’ need to “support the legally enacted commitments of the country.” No word of complaint about those commitments and how they are out of control. In other words, it was all about the symptom, not the underlying problem.