As of this moment (1 PM on 30 July 2011), the stalemate over the debt ceiling continues in Washington . The Republicans continue to refuse to raise the debt ceiling without huge cuts in spending. The Republicans state they intend to impose financial responsibility on the Federal Government.
The Republicans are taking a stand, even if it risks default on the national debt, based on “principle”.
However, if you examine the history of debt ceiling increases over the last 10 years, you have to wonder where this Republican demand for financial responsibility comes from. History seems to show the Republicans previously had no fears or qualms about raising the debt ceiling with a Republican in the White House. Specifically:
June 2002 Debt Ceiling Increase:
In June 2002, Congress increased the debt ceiling to $6.4 trillion. A 50-50 split existed in the Senate, but the Senate was under Republican control because the Republican Vice President Dick Cheney could vote to break ties. The House was under Republican control with 221 Republicans, 211 Democrats, and 1 Independent. Conclusion: This was a Republican initiated debt ceiling increase.
May 2003 Debt Ceiling Increase:
In May 2003, Congress increased the debt ceiling to $7.384 trillion. The Senate and the House had the same composition as in June 2002, with both controlled by the Republicans. Conclusion: This was another Republican initiated debt ceiling increase.
November 2004 Debt Ceiling Increase:
In November 2004, Congress increased the debt ceiling to $8.184 trillion. The Senate and the House had the same composition as in June 2002, with both controlled by the Republicans. In the November 2004 election, the Republicans gained one seat in the Senate, giving them 51 votes, and the Republicans increased their majority in the House by eight votes. However, these new voting numbers did not take effect until January 2005. Conclusion: This was another Republican initiated debt ceiling increase.
May 2006 Debt Ceiling Increase:
In May 2006, Congress increased the debt ceiling to $8.965 trillion. At this time, the Republicans firmly controlled the Senate with 55 votes. The House was Republican controlled with 231 Republicans, 202 Democrats, 1 independent, and 1 vacant seat. Conclusion: Again, this was a Republican initiated debt ceiling increase.
September 2007 Debt Ceiling Increase:
In September 2007, Congress increased the debt ceiling to $9.815 trillion. The Senate and the House had the same composition as in May 2006, with both controlled by the Republicans. . Conclusion: Yes, this was another Republican initiated debt ceiling increase.
So, why is the Republican Party that initiated and passed so many debt ceiling increases over the last 10 years, suddenly taking a “principled” stand against raising the debt ceiling now? What sparked this sudden conversion to a “financial responsibility” religion? Are the Congressional Republicans hypocrites or have they suddenly converted to some new “financial responsibility” religion? There is no one easy answer to these questions because motivations vary amongst the Congressional Republicans. One thing for sure – the sudden loathing of Congressional Republicans for debt ceiling increases is an amazing thing to see.
One central theme to the Congressional Republicans’ behavior is their very apparent animosity toward this particular Democratic President. The Republican Senate minority leader has stated that defeating President Obama is his number one priority, stating, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president“. The self-anointed unofficial head of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, said, “I hope Obama fails”, after Mr. Obama had been in office only a few months. Mr. Limbaugh subsequently strongly encouraged his listeners not to buy General Motors cars in the hopes that this would cause the failure of the bail out of the American car industry. Such strong opposition party statments, hoping for the failure of an American president and the failure of a major American industry. are unprecedented in the history of this country. These reckless statements raise the appearance that the Congressional Republicans’ sudden conversion to deficit control is nothing but partisan politics. Congressional Republicans look like extremist hypocrites willing to take positions they do not believe in for political profit.
Regardless of the Republican’s real motivations, “regular” Americans will have to live with the results. The Congressional Republicans are demanding cuts to programs that help “regular” Americans on a day-to-day basis. The Congressional Republicans are proposing Social Security cuts for the aged, the disabled, and widows and their children. The same Congressional Republicans who attacked Mr. Obama for “wanting to kill Granny” are now proposing massive cuts in health care for the aged. The Congressional Republicans are proposing huge cuts to such programs as the Pell Grant program, a program that allows lower income people to attend college. The Congressional Republicans’ proposed cuts to the Federal budget will result in less money flowing to the State governments. The State governments use this Federal money to fund programs like unemployment benefits, road construction, and public safety (fire and police services). In addition, the Republicans say it is either massive cuts or face a default on the debt. In other words, the Republicans are saying, “our way, or nothing”.
While you are living with the result, whether it is massive budget cuts or an economic debacle caused by default on the debt, you should remember the Congressional Republicans. Remember the people whose sudden new “principled” stand for financial responsibility brought you this new America you will be living in. If you like the new America, reward the Congressional Republicans in subsequent elections. Conversely, if you do not like the new America brought to you by your Congressional Republicans, please remember to reward them accordingly the next time you are in the voting booth.