The Treasury Department warned in the midst of last year’s government shutdown [PDF]: “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse…. Because the debt ceiling impasse contributed to the financial market disruptions, reduced confidence and increased uncertainty, the economic expansion was no doubt weaker than it otherwise would have been.”
One problem might be that Tea Party leaders seem to have no clue what they are talking about.
Tea Party politicians dismissed concerns about failing to raise the debt limit — with one Tea Party-aligned congressman arguing that such a move would help the economy — and didn’t seem to grasp the fact that “raising the debt ceiling simply lets Treasury borrow the money it needs to pay all U.S. bills and other legal obligations in full and on time” and isn’t a “license to spend more.”
Similarly, a Bloomberg News poll found that 93 percent of Tea Party Republicans believe the federal budget deficit is growing, even while it israpidly shrinking.
Myth #2: Tea Party Wants Entitlement Cuts
We keep hearing about how the Tea Party will lead a push to cut entitlement programs, but Tea Party members are disproportionately entitlement program benefactors. A New York Times/CBS poll found that Tea Party members are more likely than others to claim that they or a family member receives Social Security benefits or is covered by Medicaid, and 62 percent believe “the benefits from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare [are] worth the costs of those programs.”
According to a McClatchy-Marist poll, 76 percent of Tea Party supporters oppose Social Security and Medicare cuts while 70 percent said they were against cuts to Medicaid.
“[W]hat many of the Tea Party candidates have found is that when push comes to shove, their backers want to protect their entitlements as much as the next guy,” writes Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation. “In fact, much of the fury of the Tea Partiers against government stimulus and bailouts might have less to do with any principled belief in the limits of government and more to do with fear of what this will do to their own entitlements.”
As Alex Seitz-Wald reported: “We know that in fact the IRS targeted lots of different kinds of groups, not just conservative ones; that the only organizations whose tax-exempt statuses were actually denied were progressive ones; that many of the targeted conservative groups legitimatelycrossed the line; that the IG’s report was limited to only Tea Party groups at congressional Republicans’ request; and that the White House was in no wayinvolved in the targeting and didn’t even know about it until shortly before the public did. In short, the entire scandal narrative was a fiction.”
Many Tea Party leaders — including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann, Mike Lee, Jim DeMint and Glenn Beck — are also favorites of the Religious Right. The GOP victories in the 2010 midterm electionbrought about what the Daily Beast called “one of the most religiously conservative [House of Representatives] in recent history” and Republican politicians in Congress and state legislatures immediately pursued a crackdown on abortion rights.
Pew found that just as “the Tea Party is much more Republican and conservative than the public as a whole… Tea Party supporters also tend to take socially conservative positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.” Tea Party activists oppose marriage equality and abortion rights at rates nearly identical to Republicans at large, and are just as likely to cite religion as the driving force on their stances on such issues.
A 2013 American Values survey observed that the majority of Tea Party activists “identify with the Christian Right,” and a study by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell found Tea Party members to be “disproportionately social conservatives” with a penchant for the “overt use of religious language and imagery.” “It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity,” they added.
Myth #5: Tea Party Has Wide Popularity
Tea Party politicians like to fashion themselves as champions of a broadly popular movement that has supporters across partisan lines. Bachmann thinks the Tea Party represents “virtually 90 percent of America ” and a poll of Tea Party supporters found that 84 percent agree that “the views of the people involved in the Tea Party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans.” Beck even believes that most Americans are in the Tea Party and to the right of the GOP.
“The era of economic hostage taking and ransom demands should finally be behind us,” Senator Patty Murray told me today. “House GOP leaders have finally bowed to the reality that they need to put uncertainty and drama behind them and put the economy ahead of their party’s political tactics.” Also, as Jonathan Bernstein notes, this reflects a GOP recognition that the Tea Party must be marginalized, not placated.
The strong bipartisan House vote on Wednesday for the farm bill was the third major defeat for conservative lobbying groups since the government shutdown, a sign that they’re losing their stranglehold on the House Republican majority.
The trio of defeats: The October bill to re-open the shuttered government and avert a catastrophic debt default (with no strings attached), the December budget agreement to raise spending and mitigate automatic sequester cuts and now the farm bill to renew agriculture subsidies and food stamps.
Tea party groups such as the Club For Growth and Heritage Action fought these initiatives every step of the way and threatened to use their scorecards to downgrade lawmakers who voted for them. In October, they lost the battle when Speaker John Boehner put the bill on the floor (even as most Republicans voted against it). But the other two items each passed with the support of 70 percent of House Republicans, a more troubling sign for the tea party groups.
In the case of the farm bill, the groups wanted much deeper cuts to food stamps than bipartisan negotiators settled on. Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, lamented on Wednesday that their effort was thwarted by an “unholy alliance” to combine farm policy and food stamps and maintain the status quo.
So, how did things go wrong for them?
Politically, they appear to have overplayed their hand. Republicans are acquiescing to the need to sustain the most basic functions of government, instead of routinely sparking crises that are painful for members and self-defeating for the party. The reality of a second term for President Barack Obama is slowly setting in. In addition, the dozens of freshman and sophomore members are starting to realize that they can buck the outside groups without necessarily suffering a fatal setback in their next Republican primary.
A breaking point came in December when the normally mild-mannered Boehner lashed out at the tea party groups publicly, after years of quietly letting them call the shots in the House. He stood by his criticisms and went on to urge his members not to let outside influence push them around.
Despite agreeing to a budget this month, it seems Congressional Republicans are not yet done holding the economic fate of the country hostage in order to pass aspects of its agenda. In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told host Chris Wallace that it would be “irresponsible” for Republicans not to try to add amendments to a bill raising the debt ceiling, which they may need to pass as early late February. Failure to pass a debt ceiling increase would be catastrophic for the economy, forcing the country to default on its obligations:
WALLACE: So are you saying right here, “We are going to attach something to the debt ceiling”? And if so, what?
MCCONNELL: What I’m saying is we ought to attach something significant for the country to [President Obama’s] request to increase the debt ceiling. That’s been the pattern for 50 years, going back to the Eisenhower administration. I think it’s the responsible thing to do for the country. […]
We’re never going to default — the Speaker and I have made that clear. We’ve never done that. But, it’s irresponsible not to use the discussion — the request of the President to raise the debt ceiling — to try to accomplish something for the country.
Asked for a “good example” of what Republicans could demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, McConnell cited the Keystone XL pipeline because it would “create jobs.” In truth, though the project would create nearly 4,000 temporary construction jobs, it would ultimately only create 35 permanent jobs, resulting in “negligible socioeconomic impacts.”Upgrading existing pipelines instead would both create more jobs and help protect the country’s drinking water supply from contamination from leaks.
After several right-wing outside groups slammed the bipartisan budget deal negotiated by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) — in some casesbefore the deal was even announced — Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) hit his breaking point. “When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, you’ve lost your credibility,” he told reporters Thursday, noting that it “comes to a point where some people step over a line.” But Boehner’s frustration has no doubt been building up over this three years as Speaker, as groups like Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, and the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) have stymied his attempts to pass even conservative-friendly legislation.
In 2011, Boehner and President Obama were on the verge of reaching a “grand bargain” on taxes, spending, and deficit reduction. The talks fell through, in part because freshmen Republicans and the conservative groups that backed them were unwilling to accept new revenue.
Here are some of the bipartisan and GOP measures the groups have worked to block over the past three years:
The 2011 Budget Control Act.
Facing a possible default on the national debt, Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed on a bill to force automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, unless a “super committee” could find sufficient savings cut hundreds of billions of dollars from federal spending over the next ten years. Though Boehner had made in clear in 2010 that when Washington hit its debt limit, Congress would “have to deal with it as adults,” groups on the right opposed increasing the ceiling. Heritage Action denounced the agreement, arguing that “Speaker Boehner’s most recent proposal to raise the debt limit is regrettably insufficient for our times.” With FreedomWorks and SCF also opposed, 66 House Republicans voted against the bill.
The New Year’s Eve 2012 Fiscal Cliff deal.
As 2012 ended, Congress grappled with a standoff over the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and the beginning of drastic sequestration cuts. After Vice President Joe Biden (D) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached a deal to extend some of the tax cuts, let others expire, and delay the cuts, the groups blasted the deal as “higher taxes.” FreedomWorks announced it would count a vote for the bill against legislators, while Heritage Action slammed it before it was even announced as a “K Street gravy train,” laden with giveaways to special interest groups. The deal passed with Boehner’s support, but the majority of Republicans voting against.
Efforts to avert the October 2013 government shutdown over Obamacare.
The effort to force a government shutdown over defunding Obamacare was largely driven by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Even though Boehner warned that it was a bad strategy, SCF and the other groups pressured Republican members to oppose any bill to fund the government without killing the Affordable Care Act. As the government shutdown dragged on, Boehner was forced to pull bills from the floor as members of his caucus refused to go against the groups’ wishes. At one point, he reportedly recited the Serenity Prayer at a closed-door caucus meeting at which he announced his “Plan B” was being scrapped for lack of Republican support. Though FreedomWorks believed the standoff a “brilliant strategy,” Congress eventually reopened government without any repeal. A furious Heritage Action said the compromise “will do nothing to stop Obamacare’s massive new entitlements from taking root — radically changing the nature of American health care.”
Here’s what’s in the Senate deal that will go before both the House and Senate today:
Government funded through January 15 at sequestration levels
Debt limit extended until February 7
A budget conference established to come up with long-term spending plans by December 13
Income verification for recipients of subsidies under Obamacare’s newly-established exchanges
Backpay for furloughed workers
A provision that requires a proactive vote to disapprove extending the debt limit, as opposed to having regular votes to raise it
That last measure is a big one: Known as the McConnell Rule, it takes the debt limit off the table as a bargaining chip on the February 7th deadline, meaning we won’t be putting the country’s full faith and credit at risk by taking ourselves to the brink of default then. The only way the debt limit would not be increased under the McConnell rule would be if Congress decides to actively prevent it, and has the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a Presidential veto.
Also, notably, here are some of the demands that Republicans have made in the last few days, but that are NOT in the bill:
No repeal of the “extraordinary measures” provision that allows the Treasury to do accounting tricks to avoid default
No ‘Vitter Amendment‘ that would have taken away employer contributions from the health plans of Congressional staff
No repeal, replacement, or delay of any aspects of Obamacare’s exchanges or individual mandate
It might look like this is overall a good deal for Democrats given the number of things that Republicans aren’t getting. It is good: It reopens the government and lifts the debt ceiling without doing any major additional damage to existing programs.
But it’s important to remember that the baseline for negotiations wasn’t exactly even: Democrats accepted the major budget cuts of sequestration (slated only to get worse on January 15, the same day their budget deal expires), and their only demand was actually the status quo: Keeping the government running and having the country fulfill its financial obligations. They didn’t request to restore the funding sequestration took away, they didn’t demand any new programs or initiatives that Democrats support. And if the previous budget conference is any indication, the one established under this deal has the potential to blow up in Democrats’ faces, leading to more cuts instead of an actual, long-term budget. In that sense, while it is the best, cleanest deal we can get, the Democratic party has been pulled slightly from center to right, not from left to center.
Meanwhile, Republicans threw everything but the kitchen sink into their negotiations. It’s no surprise they’re taking a lot of losses.
Democrats have seized on video of Rep. Chris Van Hollen angrily confronting Republicans on the House floor over changes to the chamber’s rules as proof Republicans purposefully pushed the nation into a government shutdown and crisis over extending the nation’s debt limit.
The Republicans’ decision to alter an obscure procedural rule has enraged Democrats and given them evidence that Republicans have purposefully throw the government into chaos with a shutdown.
Normally, any member of the House can force a vote on legislation which the Senate and House are unable to agree on. Although it is a rarely used mechanism, House Republicans were taking no chances in the days leading up to the shutdown.
Republican leaders were nervous about the possibility that the Senate’s clean spending extension bill would pass the chamber on the strength of Democratic votes — or worse, that it would fail, taking it off the table permanently as a solution.
That concern appears to have driven the decision to change the rules to allow only Majority Leader Eric Cantor to force a vote on the Senate plan.
The House routinely alters its rules for considering legislation. The majority’s control of the Rules Committee makes it possible for them to limit the number and type of amendments that can be considered, the length of debate, and virtually all the other contours of a floor debate.
But the changes to the rules used to block Democrats from forcing a vote on the Senate’s spending plan is not the type of change that is routinely made, and is yet another sign of the Republican leadership’s tenuous control of the chamber.
Really, it’s a win win situation, because Republicans win by forcing the default, and then they win by pointing the finger at President Obama. Yes, the collateral damage would be awful for America—things like unpaid Social Security checks, financial markets in turmoil, and a massive recession coupled with austerity like we’ve never seen before—but Beltway pundits could go to sleep at night satisfied that Republicans had not been humiliated, because at a time like this, our top priority should be avoiding the humiliation of Republicans who have absolutely no respect for the country they were elected to serve.
Sources told the Post that, in a private meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said that by kicking the can down the road, the GOP would lose “leverage” in their fight against Obamacare.
Ryan’s main concern appears to be delaying the health care law’s individual mandate, but ThinkProgress points out that Ryan also emphasized the need to give employers the ability to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious reasons.
Failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause the United States to default on its bills, a situation “dramatically worse” than the current government shutdown, President Barack Obama warned Tuesday.
But he also sought to assure jittery markets and nervous countries that the US would honor its debts despite the looming deadline for Congress to raise the borrowing cap and avoid a cash crunch.
“As soon as Congress votes to reopen the government, it’s also got to vote to meet our country’s commitments, pay our bills, raise the debt ceiling,” Obama told a press conference.
“As reckless as a government shutdown is, the economic shutdown caused by America defaulting would be dramatically worse,” he added.
Obama criticized rival Republican Party lawmakers for setting unrelated conditions before they would agree to pass a new budget and raise the debt ceiling.
Members of Congress “don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs,” he said.
The shutdown of non-essential federal government services was in its eighth day Tuesday, with hundreds of thousands of workers furloughed, or sent home without pay, after Congress failed to pass a budget for the 2014 fiscal year that began October 1.
Meanwhile the $16.7 trillion US borrowing ceiling needs to be raised by October 17, when the Treasury says it will run out of cash and lack the funds necessary to fund a chronic deficit of about $60 billion a month.
But Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has warned that he will not allow Congress to raise the ceiling unless Obama offers concessions on his signature reform law that expanded health-care coverage.
Speaker of The House John Boehner Refuses To Allow Clean Continuing Resolution Vote On Ending Government Shutdown, Insists On Sending Nation Towards Path Of Defaulting On Its Debts
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) insisted Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he won’t bring up a “clean” debt limit increase under any circumstances, warning that the U.S. will default on its debt unless President Barack Obama agrees to make policy concessions.
"We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase," he said. "I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us."
Obama has repeatedly vowed not to negotiate on whether the country is able to keep paying its bills. Boehner’s speakership is at risk if he defies conservatives and allows the borrowing limit to be raised cleanly. The deadline is Oct. 17 and Boehner said the U.S. is currently on a path to default.
"That’s the path we’re on," he said. "The president canceled his trip to Asia. I assumed — well, maybe he wants to have a conversation. I decided to stay here in Washington this weekend. He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call."
According to leaks by House Republicans last week, Boehner has told colleagues privately he won’t permit default and will raise the debt ceiling with Democratic votes if need be.
Pressed again and again by host George Stephanopoulos about whether he’d prefer default to bringing up a clean debt limit bill, Boehner didn’t flinch.
"I don’t want the United States to default on its debt," he said. "But I’m not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up. It would be irresponsible of me to do this."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) raised the idea of taking the country into default if Republicans don’t get more spending cuts during a press conference on Friday.
On October 17, the nation hits its credit limit, and must extend the so-called “debt limit” in order to pay outstanding bills that the United States owes. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, it would be calamitous for the nation’s economy.
It’s long been suspected that House Republicans would wrap the debt ceiling into the shutdown fight, but on Friday, Boehner made it official.
“I don’t believe that we should default on our debt,” Boehner said. “It’s not good for our country. But after 55 years of spending more than what you bring in, something ought to be addressed.”
“I think the American people expect if we’re going to raise the amount of money we can borrow,” he went on, “we ought to do something about our spending problem and the lack of economic growth in our country.”
Boehner has previously pledged not to use the debt limit as political leverage. And while he may insist on spending cuts, the funding bill that Republicans are currently blocking actually includes the massive across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
On Thursday, the Treasury Department released a report warning that hitting the debt ceiling would create “a recession more severe than any seen since the Great Depression.” Since the nation would default on its debt, it could affect the economic growth and borrowing power of the country for decades to come.
Still House Republicans have written off the effects of surpassing the debt limit, believing — against the advice of experts — that the nation would be able to prioritize payments and avoid pure default.