Republican Debt Limit Hostage Operation Hits Record Level Of Absurdity

Bill Scher

Earlier this week, I noted that the Republican plan to take the debt limit hostage to demand unspecified tax reform at a future date was too ridiculous to be believed.

But that battle plan looks like the Invasion of Normandy compared to the latest Keystone Kops scheme the Republicans floated to Politico today: hold the debt limit hostage for the “kitchen sink” full of “conservative goodies.”

The plan is simple: craft a debt ceiling hike onto a bill loaded with tons of conservative goodies to put lots of options on the table to garner 218 GOP votes.

Options being floated internally include language approving the Keystone XL pipeline, slashing regulations with the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act and additional spending cuts — perhaps even a framework for tax reform.

To make it even more attractive to voters back home, they’d frame it as a so-called job-creation bill. Basically, anything they could say creates jobs has a chance of landing in this legislative package.

There’s also real effort from the right — supported by leadership — to forestall Obama’s health care law in the fight to lift the debt ceiling.

To call this absurd would be an insult to Absurdists.

For Republicans to actually hold the debit limit hostage, threatening the stability of the entire global economy, for a slapdash wingnut wish list that has nothing to do with debt is the political equivalent of suicide by cop — an entire party running out of the house, waving weapons frantically in the air, racing into throng of armed voters in hopes of being blissfully annihilated, ending the pain and misery of actually having to govern, then buried in an unmarked grave next to the Whigs.

To repeat myself from Monday, this is so unbelievable, I don’t believe it.

Once again, we have a party leadership that deep down understands that more debt limit chicken is no path to regaining majority status (remember the Republicans temporarily suspended the debt limit in February, for fear of taking the blame for economic disaster). Yet the leadership is still stuck with a rank-and-file detached from political and policy reality, and needs to posture for as long as possible to avoid primary challenges.

Republicans are too afraid to force a real showdown over what they were claiming threatens American’s fiscal stability — Social Security and Medicare. And Republicans are too afraid to tell their right-wing base voters that we have to increase the debt limit to pay the bills Congress has already spent the money on. So they are scurrying around to come up with something, anything, to serve as a ransom.

But the public lurching from one proposed ransom to the next exposes the pathetic state of the Republican Party, incapable of unifying around a reasonable position. Politico describes the division:

The approach of slapping a number of conservative ideas together represents one pole — the other approach is embodied in what Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is pushing toward. Camp, with the tacit support of Ryan, has been advocating tying tax reform to the debt ceiling — an approach that has drawn skeptics and supporters in GOP leadership. Conservatives are skeptical of that as well.

The last time Republicans were this divided, it was during the fiscal cliff talks. They caved then, too.

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