The Washington Post

Tea Party freshmen play hardball on the budget and chicken with debt limit

Ten Tea Party House freshmen armed with blue tape sent a put-up-or-shut-up message to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). In typical Milbank style, the scene was hilariously depicted. Unfortunately, what they’re doing isn’t funny. While they are taking a stand on budget negotiations, their actions will have an impact on what happens with the debt ceiling vote. The full faith and credit of the United States hangs in the balance.

Over the course of five postings, I’ve explained my worry. Failure to raise the legal limit on the amount of money Treasury can borrow to pay for past obligations would wreck American lives and sink the barely-off-the-mats American economy. In a perfect world, raising the debt ceiling for the 11th time in the past 10 years alone would be coupled with far-reaching reforms. Maybe not as radical as those proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), but at least there would be time to debate them. As we know, the world isn’t perfect. The clock is ticking toward default. And to make matters worse, it’s not clear Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) can hold his conference together to get it done. Just look at what’s going on with the negotiations to avert a government shutdown a week from tomorrow.

The Tea Party rally set for today won’t buck up congressional courage. Remember the chaotic scene when Tea Partyers descended on the Capitol for the health-care vote? Members of Congress will participate in today’s events as they did then. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) will be there to join the “demand that Washington get serious about putting our fiscal house in order.” Not voting to raise the debt ceiling is not a way to accomplish that necessary goal.

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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