House Minority Whip Says Debt Ceiling Is ‘Not Real,’ Shouldn’t Factor In Fiscal Cliff Talks

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)The GOP threats to use the debt limit as a bargaining tool to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have already begun. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated on Tuesday that while President Obama is going to win on tax increases for the wealthy, the president can expect demands for cuts to social programs in exchange for raising of the debt limit next year. He also made a subtle threat last week:

“Look, the only way we ever cut spending around here is by using the debate over the debt limit to do it. Now the president wants to remove that spur to cut altogether,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has insisted that without equal spending cuts, any increase in the debt limit will be denied.

On Tuesday, however, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the debt limit is “not real” and shouldn’t be part of the negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff. He said that because the debt ceiling isn’t real, he has no problem giving President Obama the authority that the Constitution gives to Congress to borrow money. “If this were real I would agree that the Congress ought not to give up its authority to do that,” he said.

“First of all, I again would urge the Speaker not to use the debt limit to the detriment of the credit-worthiness of the United States of America as a leverage point,” Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill. “It is not a leverage point. It is not real,” he said. “It is a phony political debate. We have incurred debt and the United States will meet its obligations, pure and simple. But Congress does ultimately have the authority to do it, obviously; demonstrably it has that authority, but no one believes — not Mitch McConnell, not John Boehner, not Eric Cantor, ‘cause I’ve talked to all of them — certainly none of us believe that America’s defaulting on our debt makes sense.”

Hoyer and the president are advocating for the “McConnell Rule”, which made headlines earlier this month when Senator Mitch McConnell was caught in the embarrassing situation of having to filibuster his own bill.   The McConnell Rule permits the president to unilaterally increase the debt limit if congress doesn’t come up with a two-thirds majority within 15 days.

During last summer’s debt limit negotiations, Mitch McConnell proposed allowing President Obama to raise the debt limit unless two-thirds of Congress denied the request within 15 days, at which time the president could veto Congress and allow the debt limit to be raised.

“I think Mitch McConnell made a useful suggestion — he’s now backed off of it, as I understand,” Hoyer said, undoubtedly referring to the debacle that gave Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) the opportunity to call McConnell’s bluff.

“It was a pretty stupid fucking thing to do. My esteemed colleague from Kentucky always walks around looking like he just filled his shorts, and by god he actually did that when I called his bluff this afternoon.”

The current debt limit is set at $16.394 trillion. The Treasury Department expects that limit to be reached before the end of the year. As of the close of business Friday, December 7 2012, the debt reached $16.365 trillion. This leaves $30 billion before the ceiling is met.

The Constitution gives the power to borrow money only to Congress, not to the president. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2 says: “Congress shall have power … To borrow money on the credit of the United States.”

Please remember that increasing the debt ceiling is not for the purpose of encouraging more spending, as the GOP ignorantly maintains in their attempt to manipulate and frighten the public. The debt ceiling does not permit future spending. It is used to cover the debt that was accrued by past government spending, which as we all know, includes the unfunded expenses of the Bush Administration.

Our gratitude goes to Senator McConnell for his once-in-a-lifetime useful suggestion.