Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Here we go again. The nation is about to smack up against the statutory limit on its borrowing. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew informed Speaker John Boehner last week that the debt limit must be raised by the end of February at the latest. The president is vowing to not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling. And, once again, lawmakers who should know better are peddling falsehoods about what the debt ceiling is and what it isn’t.

“What the president is saying is he just wants a blank credit card to keep growing and growing the debt, and I think that’s irresponsible,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I think it’s irresponsible to our kids and grandkids to stick that debt on them because we can’t live within our means.” No, what is irresponsible is for the architect of the failed Republican shutdown of the federal government for 16 days last year and that robbed the economy of $2 billion in productivity to continue the “blank-check” lie.

Listen, and listen carefully. Raising the debt ceiling is neither a blank check nor a blank credit card. It is not about future spending. Such an action is necessary for the payment of past spending approved by Congress. As Treasury repeatedly argues, correctly, mind you, “The debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.” Or as the Treasury pointed out in a “myth v. fact” document created during the 2011 debt-ceiling nonsense, “Refusing to raise the debt limit does nothing to reduce those existing obligations or cut the deficit.”

Why is this so hard for Cruz and far too many others in the GOP to understand and accept? Their failure to do so is what’s irresponsible. They put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk every time they pass off a lie as truth.

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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.