Democrats have demanded conditions for debt-ceiling increases 21 times since 1979
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Why, those irresponsible Republicans, risking the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening not to raise the debt limit! It’s unheard of! It’s unprecedented! It’s beyond the pale, I tell ya!
Except for one thing: It’s as common as the day is long. In fact, more than half of all the debt ceiling increases since 1979 came with conditions, and no party attached conditions more than the Democrats.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Kevin Hassett and Abby McCloskey tell you what the mainstream media would have told you two years ago if it was not merely an Obama propaganda outfit:
Congressional Republicans who want legislative conditions in exchange for a debt-limit increase are following a strategy that has been pursued by both parties the majority of the time. Of the 53 increases in the debt limit, 26 were “clean”—that is, stand-alone, no strings-attached statutes. The remaining debt-limit increases were part of an omnibus package of other legislative bills or a continuing resolution. Other times, the limit was paired with reforms, only some of which were related to the budget.
In 1979, a Democratic Congress increased the debt limit but required Congress and the president to present balanced budgets for fiscal years 1981 and 1982. In 1980 the debt limit, again increased by a Democratic Congress, included repeal of an oil-import fee. In 1985, the debt limit that was raised by a divided Congress included a cigarette tax and a provision requiring Congress to pursue an alternative minimum corporate tax in the next year.
Hassett and McCloskey also make a good point about the usefulness of the debt ceiling as a check against executive power. A party that controls only one house of Congress can’t really govern per se, but its assent is still needed by the president for certain essential actions. A president who thinks he is above consultation with Congress could use a little reining in, and the need to raise the debt ceiling is a useful reminder that if he goes too far cramming his own agenda down the throats of the nation, the opposition party does indeed have an ace to play.
As Hassett and McCloskey demonstrate here, the Democratic Party has not been shy about playing that ace frequently over the course of the last generation.
I would ask why the mainstream news media have not called Obama on his insistence that this is all so unprecedented and shocking, but the question answers itself so I won’t bother.
I would say this, though: If you don’t want the opposition party holding you hostage with conditions for raising the debt ceiling, why don’t you try balancing the budget? Then you won’t need to borrow, and they won’t be able to exercise that check on you. Debt presents all kinds of complications in life that people who pay cash don’t have to deal with. If this situation is bothering Obama that much, he should give it a try.