Congress Found Vrtue in Compromise — At Last
After four months of political wrangling, eyeball-to-eyeball negotiations and mounting anxiety in both parties about the “debt ceiling,” Congress finally found enough common ground to pay its bills. But how long will these good tidings last?
First, it helps to understand just what the debt ceiling is. In mid-April House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, explained it like this: “You know, if you gave your child a credit card, and they kept maxing it out to the limit, you wouldn’t blindly just raise the limit. You’d change their behavior. The exact same thing is true with our national debt.”
That’s not quite right. The debt ceiling isn’t about putting a limit on your future spending. It’s about paying bills you already owe, such as your credit card statement lists the purchases you have made.
Refusal by McCarthy and his House GOP Republican colleagues in recent months to raise the federal debt ceiling on spending the government already has incurred would be like refusing to pay for what you already owe. If you persisted in this refusal, you'd end up in bankruptcy, or perhaps in jail for fraud.
The debt ceiling has become a pointless and dangerous exercise, as spending constantly exceeds incoming revenue, and the ceiling repeatedly must be raised to avoid the government going into default. That would lead to a worldwide financial crisis.
But, as our politics have become more fractious, the looming debt ceiling has climbed to $31.4 trillion and poses a threat to our national well-being and the global economy.
Fortunately, with just days to go before the big collapse, the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed a debt ceiling deal forged by McCarthy and President Joe Biden.
The House sent the legislation to the waiting hands of the Democratic-controlled Senate, which gave final approval Thursday and then sent it to Biden to be signed into law.
That was close. But with dedicated lawmakers and their hardworking staffers, agreement came together in the way such polarized opposites almost always come together, through compromise.
McCarthy and other Republicans were not willing to destroy the economy by forcing a default or imposing job-killing spending cuts. But they were willing in the end to rally the moderates and leave the furthest-right extremists on the sidelines just enough to get the job done.
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