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Editorial: GOP's debt-ceiling game is yet another justification to nuke the filibuster

Editorial: GOP's debt-ceiling game is yet another justification to nuke the filibuster

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says his caucus won't help raise the federal debt ceiling to cover debt incurred largely as a result of the 2017 tax cuts that Republicans rammed through over the opposition of Democrats.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Republicans’ threat to shut down the federal government and trash America’s credit rating rather than raise the debt ceiling to cover spending they themselves approved is a breathtaking study in hypocrisy and hostage-taking, even for them. Anyone who claims this dangerous game has anything to do with fiscal responsibility doesn’t understand the issue — or is betting along with those GOP senators that most Americans don’t. Either way, it’s a new low.

Democrats, as the only grownups in the room, likely will have to make concessions on unrelated issues in order to prevent what could in theory escalate into a global economic crisis. This unacceptable situation, like others caused lately by Republican mischief, wouldn’t be happening if Democrats would do what they should already have done and eliminate the filibuster.

The debt ceiling is the level of debt that the federal government can take on at any given time, as set by law. Since the government perpetually spends more than it brings in, that level has to be raised periodically, a process that traditionally has been bipartisan. The urgent point is, raising the debt ceiling isn’t approval of new spending but rather approval to pay the bills Congress has already incurred.

In other words, refusing to raise the debt ceiling isn’t like deciding not to buy that Rolls-Royce; it’s like buying that Rolls-Royce on a credit card and then refusing to pay the credit card bill. This is what today’s Republican Party is trying to pass off as fiscal responsibility.

Especially galling is that the current debt was incurred largely by the very Senate Republicans who are now sanctimoniously refusing to pay it. Their budget-busting 2017 tax cuts, which they passed over Democratic opposition when the GOP controlled Congress, are a big part of the reason the debt ceiling has to be raised.

If Congress fails to raise the ceiling along with a measure to fund the government, the result would be not only a federal government shutdown but a first-ever default on America’s debts. That would send the nation’s credit rating tumbling and likely send global markets into a tailspin. All so Republicans can preen in their campaign ads with the fiction of fiscal responsibility.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell — always one to make up new rules as he goes along — has declared that majority Democrats are obliged to lift the ceiling all by themselves. Never mind that it’s always been a bipartisan process in the past. When McConnell was in charge, Democrats agreed to multiple debt-ceiling raises. Hypocrisy, thy name is Mitch.

Still, Democrats should take McConnell’s advice and act like the majority they are — which cannot happen as long as the Senate labors under an arcane and arguably unconstitutional rule that allows the minority party to effectively hold the majority hostage. Nuke the filibuster, already.

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