There’s just no excuse for the Congress not to raise the national debt limit.
Raising the limit is about the government having the money to pay bills it has already incurred, mostly by the Trump administration.
Not paying those bills would be disastrous for this country, a fact understood by each and every one of the Senate Republicans who have so far blocked efforts by Democrats to raise the limit.
Yet, here we sit, less than two weeks from economic calamity, with this evenly divided Senate engaged in partisan brinksmanship.
The Republicans last week followed their leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, filibustering the issue and making it impossible for Democrats to raise the limit with their 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break the tie.
It’s not that the Democrats — or the Republicans — ought ever to have to do this particular chore on their own. They’ve all been elected to do this job and members of both parties participated in spending these trillions of dollars in debt that have piled up.
The Democrats at least appear willing to do to what’s necessary to pay the bills, while Republicans are intent on making the Biden administration and the Democrats look bad, particularly since they’re trying to pass major new spending for Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
The new spending arguably could create future debt if the costs of Biden’s ambitious initiatives aren’t fully covered by planned tax increases on large corporations and improved enforcement of existing taxes, particularly for wealthy taxpayers.
That’s really a whole different issue from raising the debt ceiling, although Biden’s push for his program is happening simultaneously.
Meanwhile, uncertainty about the debt ceiling situation is already causing problems for the economy. Unfortunately, those problems could get a whole lot worse — and soon.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week told the Congress that the United States will exhaust what flexibility it has to avoid breaching the debt limit on Oct. 18.
That’s less than two weeks away and, as she said, that’s just the best estimate they can make of the federal government’s variable cash flow.
The catastrophic consequences of not raising the debt ceiling in time, Yellen said, could halt child tax credit payments for 30 million families and delay Social Security payments for 50 million seniors as well as push an already impacted stock market lower.
She also suggested uncertainty about the United States’ ability to meet its obligations could drive up borrowing costs for taxpayers for mortgages and other loans.
Failure of the Congress to act promptly, she said, can harm business and consumer confidence while bringing substantial disruptions to financial markets.
That’s the sort of thing that can happen, if the Congress just puts raising the debt ceiling off to the last minute.
If the debt ceiling were to be breached, according to economists, the U.S. economy is headed toward recession. A default reportedly could cost the economy roughly 6 million jobs and erase trillions in household wealth.
It’s hard to comprehend the impact, were that to happen.
Most likely, it won’t happen. Despite the political theatrics, the debt ceiling must be raised or done away with altogether.
Just be sure to put the blame for any interim pain in the economy where it belongs — squarely at the feet of Minority Leader McConnell and the Republicans who follow him like lemmings.