The GOP's Debt Ceiling Proposal is So Crazy It Just Might Work

The House GOP proved on Thursday that it is not afraid to shoot for the stars. Unless they want the federal government to officially shut down next Tuesday, Congress must vote to fund the federal government. Additionally, the debt ceiling must be raised by Oct. 17 to allow the government to borrow and pay its bills. Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will strip any language about defunding Obamacare from the passed House bill to fund the federal government, Republicans have been concocting a new plan to defund Obamacare using the debt ceiling as a central strategic point.

In exchange for a year-long suspension of the debt ceiling, the new proposal from the House GOP would not only delay the implementation of Obamacare by a year, but would also approve the Keystone XL pipeline, remove most bans on drilling offshore and on federally-protected lands, suspend the EPA's new efforts to regulate carbon emissions, rewrite ash coal regulations, pass the Paul Ryan tax plan, overhaul Dodd-Frank financial regulations, give Congress more regulatory authority in general, reform the federal employee retirement program, repeal the Social Service block grant, repeal the Public Health trust fund, increase means-testing in Medicare, block net neutrality, and implement a plethora of other changes. Phew. That is quite the list. Why not throw a ban on gay marriage in there too? Seriously, they might as well have just pasted the entire Republican Party (or at least Tea Party) platform in there.

But progressives and moderate conservatives need not seriously worry about the hellscape that passing this bill would create. This House proposal has almost no chance of passing in the Senate, given the resistance of Senate Democrats. In response to the proposal, Obama ruled out any changes to healthcare reform while he remains in office, calling Republican tactics "irresponsible."

It might be surprising that relatively-moderate House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would even let this proposal through. But, it makes perfect sense. He needs to please his Republican caucus, who in turn need to appear tough on Democrats to please their constituencies. By listing everything they could dream of, Republicans might get some of it once they sit down at the bargaining table. If not, they'll be in a position to blame Democrats for being uncompromising. But the content of this proposal is disturbing on another level. It reads as the manifesto of fiscal conservatism, yet is being pushed through by Republicans in a way that is fiscally reckless.

Remember when the S&P downgraded its U.S. credit rating two years ago after a similar debt ceiling showdown in Congress? On Wednesday, the S&P stock market index dropped for a fifth straight day largely due to the prospect of a government shutdown. That is scary stuff. Republicans need not give up all their demands and simply submit to the agenda of the Democrats. If Republicans want to present themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility, they need to stop playing politics and partner with Democrats to construct a bill whose proposals fall within the realm of possibility.