Democrats are horrified, but not exactly shocked, that House Speaker John Boehner plans to tee up a new debt limit fight.
In his weekly press briefing with reporters, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer attributed the development to Boehner’s weak grip on his party.
“Let me say that the dollar-for-dollar [requirement] led to the sequester which none of us like,” Hoyer said. “So while it sounds good, the execution of that principle does not seem to be very disciplined. We need to have a big, bold, balanced deal. The Speaker, in my view, believes that as well. The Speaker’s party does not believe in balance….We don’t adopt their priorities.”
It’s not just frustrating for Hoyer to see Boehner kowtow to the right flank of the GOP. Republicans are using the debt limit to achieve ideological goals, when raising it is the means by which the government pays off existing debt, most of which the country incurred under GOP rule last decade.
“Look the dollar for dollar…I think it is a simplistic characterization of the issue that confronts us,” Hoyer said. “We are buying more than we’re paying for. The Republicans are good at buying and lousy at paying. They’ve borrowed a lot of money. As a result we owe a lot of money. The debt limit is about paying back that which we have already incurred. We’re for pay-for. The Republicans essentially put aside pay-for… They don’t believe tax cuts need to be paid for.”
Beyond that, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Republicans have no standing to demand a new debt limit deal after effectively violating last year’s.
“It is pretty galling for Speaker Boehner to be laying down demands for another debt ceiling agreement when he won’t even abide by the last one,” he said in a statement to reporters. “The last thing the country needs is a rerun of last summer’s debacle that nearly brought down our economy.”
A senior Senate Democratic aide thinks this all will blow up in the GOP’s face.
“They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” the aide said. “The Speaker may hope for a case of national amnesia, but the American people haven’t forgotten what Republicans put our country through with the artificial crisis they created last August and the subsequent deal they spent the last year running away from.”
If that’s true, and Boehner recognizes it, then Hoyer hopes he comes around.
“The debt limit should not be a political issue. Mr. Boehner knows it shouldn’t be a political issue,” Hoyer said. “As a practical effect, we ought not to allow the debt limit to be in question. Increasingly we’re going to undermine the confidence in the United States by continuing this game on the debt limit. We’ve incurred the debts, we need to pay the debts.”
Additional reporting by Sahil Kapur.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.