Republicans are spending an awful lot of time conflating the absolute need to raise the debt ceiling with the absolute need to get the nation’s voracious spending under control. While both must be done, the former is not dependent upon the latter. Yet, you wouldn’t know it by listening to congressional Republicans.

Congressman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) Congressman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. John Cornyn  (R-Tex.), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have all engaged in this willful obfuscation as part of a new get-tough stance against President Obama, who has made it absolutely clear publicly and privately that he will not play this game with the debt ceiling again. But it was Camp in the GOP weekly address who used an analogy that gets right at what the debt ceiling is and what it isn’t.

 Many of our Democrat colleagues just don’t seem to get it. Throughout the fiscal cliff discussions, the President and the Democrats who control Washington repeatedly refused to take any meaningful steps to make Washington live within its means. That position is irresponsible and fails to acknowledge what every family in America already knows – when you have no more money in your account and your credit cards are maxed out, then the spending must stop.

 

Well, that is the current financial reality facing America. As we turn our attention toward future discussions on the debt limit and the budget, we must identify responsible ways to tackle Washington’s wasteful spending.

The credit card analogy is apt. The United States is out of money. It’s credit cards are maxed out. But what Camp’s comment fails to acknowledge is that the bills racked up on those credit cards are still due. No amount of cutting current spending is going to make those bills go away.

For the umpteenth time: Raising the debt ceiling is not about future spending, but PAST spending approved by Congress, which Camp has been a part of for 22 years. Or as the Treasury pointed out in a “myth v. fact” document on its Web site,   “Refusing to raise the debt limit does nothing to reduce those existing obligations or cut the deficit.”

To not pay those bills is to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States. And as we saw during the last debt-ceiling fight, to threaten not to pay them is to hit the nation with a credit downgrade. That’s what Standard and Poor’s did in 2011. That’s what Moody’s Investor Services threatened late last year.

According to the Government Accounting Office, the 2011 standoff increased the nation’s borrowing costs by $1.3 billion that year. In a November report, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that the 10-year cost of that fight to taxpayers will be $18.9 billion. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised the cost to taxpayers will be astronomically higher. Why Republicans are willing to force us all to find out is beyond comprehension.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.
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