In 2011, the Republican Party – and especially the conservative/Tea Party wing – was accused of holding the country “hostage” over the debt ceiling debate. In yesterday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney decided to bring the term back into style, using it twice when answering questions on the debt ceiling. Here is the second one:
Q: Jay, speaking of the debt ceiling, does an agreement to raise the debt ceiling have to be part of an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff?
CARNEY: We’re not going to negotiate over what is a fundamental responsibility of Congress, which is to pay the bills that Congress incurred. It should be part of the deal. It should be done and it should be done without drama.
We cannot allow our economy to be held hostage again to the whims of an ideological agenda. We are the United States of America. We are the greatest economy on Earth. We pay our bills. We always have. If Congress wants to reduce spending, that should be part of the negotiations that go into making decisions about how we spend — the programs we spend money on.
Fortunately, ABC’s Jake Tapper didn’t let Carney get away with it:
Q: Just a second ago, you referred to, when talking about the debt ceiling, taking it off the table needs to be part of the deal. You referred to the economy being held hostage by an ideological view. You’re aware that when he was a senator, President Obama voted against raising it.
CARNEY: We addressed that and there was no threat of default at the time. What happened in 2011 — as we all know, because we all lived it, most of us in this room — was the threat of default, a willingness expressed on the record and publicly by numerous members of Congress to see the American economy under default and with all the consequent impacts on the global economy and on the American middle class in order to achieve some sort of political victory that was driven by ideology and partisanship.
Q: So it’s okay for people to engage in that kind of nonsense if it’s —
CARNEY: Jake, I appreciate the question, and we engaged in this a lot at the time and I refer you to my comments about it back then. But the fact that —
Q — people voting the way that Senator Obama did and except you’re using derisive terms —
CARNEY: What happened in 2011 is that Republicans in Congress demanded — said they would let America default for the first time in its history if they did not get the items on their agenda. That was consequential and it was unprecedented, and the result was bad for everyone.
So, in the last few days, we’ve gone from the President putting forth an unreasonable plan and taking a vacation to his Press Secretary saying principled disagreement is equivalent to hostage-taking, but only if that principled opposition doesn’t actually impact the country. Gotcha.
But now the question arises: Who is really taking the country hostage? I answered that question the other day at the Tea Party Patriots’ blog:
Since the start of the Tea Party Movement, politicians in both parties have found it convenient to blame [the Tea Party] whenever the Beltway Bubble is pierced. This hit something of a climax last year, when Tea Party-minded Members of Congress held strong against a no-frills debt ceiling increase. If you’ll remember, the word “hostage” was thrown about.
Well, now principled opposition to increased taxes is being used by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to say the coming fiscal cliff won’t be avoided. In other words, Rep. Pelosi is holding the middle-class hostage on tax increases in order to eke out a little more from the wealthy.
Between them, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are holding the country hostage over increasing taxes on the rich to cover less than 2% of projected spending over the next decade. Isn’t that the definition of “an ideological agenda,” especially when the nation has at least $61 trillion in long-term debts, liabilities, and obligations, and the President’s “plan” to deal with this problem is to essentially ignore it?
As Ed noted earlier today, it’s certainly becoming possible that the GOP is waiting to use the debt ceiling as its major negotiating point on tax reform and entitlement reform. I’m not holding out hope – trusting the House leadership to actually push for conservative policies hasn’t exactly led to successful outcomes in the last two years – but it’s possible. In which case, we can expect to see Carney and Co. pulling “hostage” out of retirement once again.
Dustin Siggins is the principal blogger for the Tea Party Patriots, a national grassroots coalition with more than 3,500 local chapters. He is also a co-founder of LibertyUnyielding.com, and the author of a forthcoming book on the national debt. The opinions expressed are his own.