It is an overused cliché to say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Yet how better to describe the actions of the House Republicans in insisting that they must “get something” in order to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling? It is a demand that has the intellectual gravitas of a child refusing to eat her spinach unless she is given a cookie.
In this case it’s even worse, because the right wing of the House Republicans (sometimes referred to here as the Oozlum Caucus) can’t even decide what kind of cookie it wants. Various possibilities have been floated: approval of the Keystone pipeline, repeal of this or that provision of the Affordable Care Act or rescinding cuts in military pensions. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. The President will refuse to agree to any of them. And although some of the fancied cookies may have merit standing alone, he will be right to do so.
It is fallacious to pretend that raising the debt ceiling is somehow doing the President a favor. It is not. It is simply a matter of Congress making it possible to pay for the costs that it has authorized by legislation. Some argue that increases in the debt ceiling have been made the subject of bargaining in the past. Regrettably, that is true, but essentially irrelevant. The demands made by the Republicans last fall were so outlandish, and their maneuvering so clumsy, that the reputation of the Republicans on this issue has been tainted for the foreseeable future. Amid the general disarray of the Obama Administration, the Republicans have invested the President with credibility to reject anything they ask for here.
Essentially, everyone in Washington knows all of the above and no one really expects the Republican procrastination to go long enough to cause, or come close to causing, a default. The spinach will be eaten. And if the Oozlums don’t eat theirs by voting for an increase in the debt ceiling, they will surely be going to bed without any cookies. The only question is how foolish they will make themselves and the Republican Party look in the process.