Debt Limit Update: The GOP Admits to Extortion
The media continues to normalize dangerously abnormal GOP behavior.
Kevin McCarthy is not known for much. Sure, he became Speaker, but he got there by being morally pliable and shameless enough to debase himself into a job no one else wanted. After McCarthy’s swept into the dustbin of history as the worst Speaker the nation has ever known, remember his greatest contribution was his propensity to accidentally utter the quiet parts out loud. This habit is not borne of courage. He is a famously dim individual. McCarthy is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, he’s a spoon.
You may remember how McCarthy shot himself in the foot during his first bid to be Speaker back in 2015. The then majority leader created a political furor by admitting and bragging that the Benghazi hearings were all about damaging Hillary Clinton politically. Everyone knew this, but only an idiot would admit it publicly. The ensuing controversy forced McCarthy to withdraw from a Speaker’s race that he almost certainly would have won.
Well, he did it again.
When speaking with reporters about his “negotiations” with the White House over extending the debt limit, McCarthy was asked what concessions his side was willing to make. Were the Republicans willing to raise taxes on the wealthy? Close a single tax loophole? Provide additional funding for one of Biden’s priorities?
Nope. McCarthy responded:
“We’re going to raise the debt ceiling.”
And with that one sentence, the Speaker of the House admitted what had been obvious to everyone but the people charged with chronicling the debt limit crisis. What is happening between the White House and the House Republicans is not a negotiation; it’s extortion, pure and simple.
Not a Negotiation
President Biden tried to square the circle of his pledge not to negotiate over the debt ceiling and the ongoing budget discussions with McCarthy. The argument stated that later this year Congress and the White House would engage in negotiations over government funding, so why not pull that conversation forward and kill two birds with one stone? The budget agreement next year would inevitably include some spending cuts becauseRepublicans now had control of the House and had the leverage to extract some concessions. On paper this made sense; cutting the budget deal now and including the debt limit extension allowed McCarthy to keep his promise to not pass an extension without spending cuts. Biden would prevent an economic catastrophe, and the debt limit would be extended through his first term without making any concessions that wouldn’t have made it a few months later.
I doubt this was the White House’s first choice. However, because they are dealing with a radicalized Republican Party led by a weak leader infamous for miscounting votes, it was their best choice. They needed to choose between a short menu of bad options to avoid the cataclysm of default.
More than a week into these “separate budget discussions,” it’s clear that McCarthy and his party are too incompetent and malevolent to take the escape route Biden offered. The President and his team have been willing to compromise and then some — proposing a 2024 spending freeze. The President also expressed openness towards tightening some existing work requirements for aid programs. One can argue about whether the White House conceded too much, but you cannot argue that the President has not been willing to compromise.
The Republicans have not responded in kind. They are unwilling to consider any of the President’s proposals to reduce the deficit. They use the threat of default to extract as many policy concessions as possible. Don’t believe me? Here's what Republican Representative Matt Gaetz said:
I think my conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow, & they don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.
At the end of the day, the Republican position is this: give us what we want or we will blow up the global economy. McCarthy admits that if his requests aren’t met, he will let the U.S. default on its obligations.
That’s not a negotiation. And the media should stop calling it that.
The Media’s Normalization of Legislative Hostage-Taking
The Washington media loves a high-stakes bipartisan negotiation more than life itself. I have never understood their fetishization of bipartisanship - where the mere agreement between a Republican and Democrat is more important than the substance of what they agreed upon. Perhaps, the editors and publishers were raised on largely apocryphal stories about the good old days where Republicans and Democrats solved the nation’s problems over a glass of whiskey or a round of golf.
The coverage of the debt limit crisis has been surreally normal. The back and forth is treated like a traditional negotiation over education, funding, or tax rates, and the only consequence of failure is opportunity cost. It’s now obvious to everyone with open eyes and ears that this is extremely abnormal. Every single reporter knows this, but very few of them will say it, proving once again that the legacy media is incapable of accurately portraying the MAGA era of American politics. McCarthy is committing an act of extortion, but reporting that means taking a side. Once again, the media chooses balance over accuracy. And in doing so, they are running for cover under a radical extremist faction that is putting the entire global economy at risk.
What is happening in Washington right now is not Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill trying to figure out the budget. It’s an armed robbery, pure and simple. When a bank robber pulls a gun and demands the contents of the bank safe, that is not a negotiation over how much money the teller should fork over.
It’s time the media started covering what’s actually happening over the debt ceiling, not what they wish was happening. If no budget deal is reached in the next week, the Republicans will have a choice — lift the debt limit or default.
Their choice and their responsibility.
The frightening thing for me is that McCarthy and his insane clown posse don't care about the economy. They care about winning and dominating in a zero-sum game. They don't care about kids (or anyone) getting killed by gun violence, they don't care about women or girls and access to healthcare, and they don't care about anyone who might be harmed by a blown-up economy. That is incredibly dangerous.
I am trying to stay off twitter today because this debt ceiling stuff is making me literally crazy, so I appreciate this clear analysis of what's going on. Its been deeply disconcerting watching all of this play out while so many people in media and politics either act like its normal, or act like the political machinations are the most important part. Also "he is in fact a spoon" got an actual lol!