Many times in the past, Congress has voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling with little or no controversy. Not so this year. The Republicans turned the vote on the debt ceiling into a major political issue by threatening to vote No, at least unless the Democrats made significant spending concessions. Initially, the Democrats squealed. Over time, however, they realized that the situation presents, for them, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Thus, they developed the strategy that we now see at work: First, publicize a purported deadline for an agreement to raise the ceiling, and promote the claim–false, in my view–that a fiscal disaster will ensue if a deal is not reached by that supposed deadline. Second, engage in secret negotiations with the Republican leadership that are expanded to include future tax increases and limited entitlement reform. That is the stage we are in now. Third, announce a deal–a cosmic, bipartisan budget agreement that ostensibly saves the Republic from a sea of debt–48 hours or so before the bogus debt ceiling deadline. Fourth, commit the deal to writing and rush it through Congress before anyone has a chance to read it or understand what is in it. Sound familiar?
The Democrats stand to gain enormously from this strategy. As things are now, they are stuck with a fiscal record that is utterly indefensible. In a mere two and a half years, the Obama administration has rung up deficits that dwarf any in our history. Trillions of dollars have been added to the national debt. We have gone for more than two years without having a federal budget in place–which is not only scandalous, but illegal. And President Obama proposed a budget for FY 2012 that was so absurd that it couldn’t garner a single vote in the Senate. The Democrats, based on their dismal record, deserve to go down to a resounding defeat in 2012.