Why The House GOP Debt Ceiling Gambit Is Extra Insane
INSIDE: Charles McGonigal ... Matt Gaetz ... George Santos
A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Don’t Stop Reading Yet!
I know it’s hard to start your Monday reading about the federal budget, but I’ll keep this one pretty simple even though it’s an important point.
I’ve been getting questions from non-experts in recent days about the difference between the debt ceiling hostage-taking and a government shutdown, about why the House GOP might relent on the debt ceiling until later this year, and about the interplay between the debt ceiling and a government shutdown.
The key point that the casual observers I run into don’t have firmly in their minds is that the federal budget for fiscal year 2023 was just passed last month in the lame duck session of Congress. The $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that President Biden signed on Dec. 29? That funds the federal government through the fiscal year that ends in September.
So to put it succinctly, House Republicans have virtually no say, no control, no forcing mechanism to redo the 2023 federal budget. That ship has sailed. They’re trying to use the debt ceiling to force the Democratic Senate and White House to re-open the books on 2023, even though that was all wrapped up a month ago.
I won’t get into all the reasons now that this is political terrorism, taking the world economy hostage under threat of a default by the federal government. Kate Riga covers that here. But you can see why – given that 2023 is already funded and House Republicans don’t have any other leverage – Democrats are content to tell them to pound sand on the debt ceiling.
How does this all square with a government shutdown?
A government shutdown wouldn’t happen at earliest until October, when the new fiscal year begins. House Republicans do have leverage there. To fund the government in the new fiscal years requires a new budget to be passed, and that means the House has to play ball. They will of course demand budget cuts and priorities consistent with their preferences, and the Democratic Senate and White House will have to negotiate with McCarthy et al. That’s normal and to be expected. A government shutdown is an extreme threat at the negotiating table, but it’s not as extreme as a debt-ceiling default.
The reporting in recent days that Republicans may kick the can on the debt limit down the road to October and fold it in with the annual budget negotiations reflects the limited leverage they have now and the greater leverage they’ll have then.
I hope this helps clear up any confusion, without offending budget experts by oversimplifying things.
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