Let’s Hope So

Michael Ramirez comments on the transition that took place in the House of Representatives yesterday. If you watched the ceremony–I caught part of it over the lunch hour–his characterization certainly seems fair. Nancy Pelosi embarrassed herself with a rambling, self-promoting, and nearly endless speech that was accompanied by a weirdly inappropriate affect. John Boehner, in contrast, was brief and sober. Click to enlarge:
One of the first tests of the House Republicans’ sobriety will be the vote to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling. As I understand it, the government will run out of money some time in the second or third quarter and will need to sell bonds in order to continue paying its obligations–i.e., the salaries of military personnel, payments owed to government contractors, payments due on purchases of equipment, purchases of essential materials like gasoline, Social Security checks, and so on. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the short-term effect would be to compel the government to default on some of these obligations.
No one wants this, and I am not aware of any plan by the Republican leadership or anyone else that could somehow cut spending in what remains of FY 2011 so as to enable the government to get through the current year without an increase in the debt ceiling. Thus, the prevailing theory on the right is that the Republican House shouldn’t actually refuse to go along with an increase in the ceiling, but should bargain hard in exchange for members’ votes so as to obtain something highly valuable in return, like a balanced budget amendment.
The problem with this theory is that the Republicans are only in a position to strike a favorable bargain if their threat not to approve an increase in the debt ceiling is credible. If the Democrats call their bluff, the result could well be disarray and collapse on the Republican side and recriminations from the party’s base, which may have unrealistically high expectations. To be clear, there is much the House can do to cut federal spending and bring down the deficit; it is just not apparent to me that the need to increase the debt ceiling presents the golden opportunity for such measures that some envision.
Am I missing something here? If so, no doubt our readers will explain why.


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