September 19, 2013

Yesterday, I brought you “Exhibit A in GOP lunacy.” In his zeal to defund Obamacare, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said, “All that really matters is what my district wants.” And if that means shutting down the government or stiffing the nation’s creditors, so be it. This morning, I bring you Exhibit B: a video from the office of “Spokesman” John Boehner.

Why is the Obama administration willing to negotiate with Putin on Syria…But not with Congress to address Washington’s spending problem?

There are so many things wrong with that ad and the above-mentioned quote from it. But it speaks volumes about what’s wrong with the Republican Party and the nation’s current predicament.

A superb column by The Post’s David Ignatius on President Obama achieving the right result on Syria shows why Obama is willing to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s not just that he had no other choice since Russia is Syria’s patron. It’s that the president found a willing negotiating partner in Putin. The same cannot be said of the House GOP leadership.

As the Boehner video makes plain, the president and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have said consistently and persistently that they will not negotiate over the raising the debt ceiling. Any attempt to do so is a non-starter. They have made this plain for months. No, for more than a year now. Yet, Republicans are equally persistent in their drive to force Obama to defund his signature achievement that was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Now, let’s tackle the other misstatement masquerading as fact in the Boehner video: “Washington’s spending problem.” Yes, Washington does indeed have a spending problem. But to the untrained ear, the ad’s assertion makes it sound like raising the debt ceiling is giving Washington a blank check to spend more money it doesn’t have. Wrong. Let me repeat: Raising the debt ceiling does not stop future spending. And not raising it is not the equivalent of cutting spending. The money gained from raising it is needed to pay the $16.7 trillion in bills already racked up.

Speaker Boehner (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
Speaker John Boehner (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

If Boehner and House Republicans want to “address Washington’s spending problem” they’d do well to engage in serious and wide-ranging budget negotiations involving tax and entitlement reforms. Instead, they will vote again tomorrow to defund Obamacare. This insane obsession certainly pleases the base. But as the clock click towards default, it now has the potential to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States.

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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.