The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Morning Plum: Why Obama won’t negotiate with GOP over debt ceiling

So here’s the latest on the fiscal cliff talks: Republicans have edged closer to yielding on middle class taxes — but they may now swing the gun in the direction of a new hostage, i.e., the debt ceiling.

 The New York Times reports that Republican leaders, running low on options, may buckle and agree to extend just the middle class tax cuts. Then, in January, they will resume the fight to get the deep entitlement cuts they want by refusing to raise the debt ceiling again:

Republican leaders could take up legislation already passed by the Senate to extend tax cuts on income under $250,000, attach a deferral or cancellation of the automatic spending cuts, and give Mr. Obama nothing else, denying requests for increased infrastructure spending, help for homeowners to refinance their mortgages, and extensions of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance.

Then Republicans would demand deep concessions on spending and changes to Medicare and Social Security as a price to raise the debt ceiling a few weeks later. Republicans say any such decision to follow that course is still a ways off.

In this scenario, Republicans are simply exchanging one mode of extortion for another one. If that sounds harsh, remember that Mitch McConnell has explicitly confirmed that Republicans view the prospect of future debt ceiling battles in precisely these terms — as a perennial way to force ever more spending cuts. After the 2011 debt limit battle, McConnell said that Republicans had learned that it is a “hostage that’s worth ransoming,” because it “focuses the Congress” on cutting spending.


Is it ethical to threaten to break somebody's arm if they refuse to take their medicine (assume the medicine is important to the long term health of the patient)? --TS

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