Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told the Sunday talk show hosts that Republicans would use “whatever leverage we have” in Congress to force spending cuts on the President. Any further revenue increases to deal with the country’s debt problem are off the table. “The tax issue is finished,” Mr. McConnell said on ABC “Over. Completed. That’s behind us.”
McConnell’s tone, and the tone of other Republican politicians, some of whom are saying that a government shutdown might be a good idea, suggests that we’re heading into yet another Republican-generated fiscal crisis.
The Republican Party likes to call itself the party of business, but crisis is bad for business. It’s bad for the economy generally, and it’s bad for the constituents of Republican members of Congress. Crisis hurts the value of stocks. It discourages employers from hiring. It deters investors. Yet crisis is what Republicans in Congress have given us over and over again.
Will they go so far as to refuse to raise the ceiling on the national debt – a ceiling that must be raised if obligations Congress has already authorized by law are to be met? Here’s what the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has to say about that option:
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, … shall not be questioned.”
This provision was enacted in the wake of the Civil War, and its immediate purpose was to assure that the debts incurred by the Federal government in the course of waging that war were paid. The framers of the amendment recognized how destructive a refusal to pay would be to the interests of the nation.
The Fourteenth Amendment is still in force, which is a good thing for the country because the insight of its authors on the dangers of questioning the public debt remains entirely valid. Republican members of Congress should study this provision of the Constitution, and take its instruction to heart.