Who will win the next fight over the debt limit?
That rule was clearly in play Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation"
when a top Republican and a top Democrat sought to frame the upcoming
debate over raising the nation's $16.4 trillion borrowing limit.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that President Obama "needs to
become the adult" in the room, arguing that both he and House Speaker
John Boehner have already "been the adults in the room arguing that we
ought to do something about the nation's most serious long term
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia
countered that Republicans are poised to again play "debt ceiling
roulette" and potentially destroy the economy with their "my-way-or
the-highway approach." He added: "I think it's incredibly
According to the Treasury Department,
the nation could reach the debt limit in October - shortly before the
November election - though the fight could also come in the lame-duck
session that follows the election. In a position that has come to be
known as the "Boehner rule," Boehner says he will again insist that an
increase in how much the nation can borrow be matched by spending cuts
equal to the amount of the increase. While he has opposed any tax
increases to reduce the deficit and debt, he has said he is open to some
revenue increases in the form of removing loopholes and deductions from
the tax code.
Which side blinks in the next debt
ceiling fight - whether it comes before or after the election - is tied
to whose argument most resonates with Americans. Can Democrats
compellingly argue that the Boehner Rule puts the fragile economic
recovery at risk? Or will Republicans succeed in making the case that
the president has failed to do what it takes to deal with the nation's
increasingly crippling debt?
From a rhetorical
perspective, the advantage would seem to belong to the Democrats. The
Republicans' decision to take a firm stand on raising the debt limit -
something that had been routine in the past - led the United States to
nearly default on its debts last summer, and contributed to a downgrade
to the nation's Treasury securities that was a blow to the American
psyche. It also meant a cap on discretionary spending and planned
automatic cuts in defense and nondefense spending next year, though
Republicans are now seeking to reverse the scheduled cuts to military
The problem for Republicans is that Americans
care a lot more about the economy than they do reducing the debt and
deficit. In an April CBS News/New York Times poll,
nearly half said the economy and jobs are the most important problem
facing the country today. Just five percent cited the budget deficit.
wound suggest that Democrats can win the argument if they can
successfully point to the last ugly debt ceiling fight to argue that
Republicans are putting the economy at risk. Even if Republicans can
convince Americans that President Obama is failing to lead on the debt
and deficit, it won't provide nearly the same benefit because most
Americans don't see it as a pressing issue.
Republican leadership has little choice but to start another fight over
raising the debt limit. Many rank-and-file House Republicans are among
that five percent that sees the debt as the issue that outweighs all
others; they also know that if they don't take a strong stand on the
issue, they expose themselves to Tea Party-backed primary challenges.
That leaves Boehner with little choice but to fight the debt limit fight
once again - even if it means risking further political damage to a
party that saw its standing slide after last year's debt battles.
What do you think will be the results of the next battle over the Debt Ceiling?
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