Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell said today just before the vote in the Senate that this represents a “new way of doing business” in Washington.
“Never again,” McConnell said, “will any President, from either party, be allowed to raise the debt ceiling without being held accountable for it by the American people and without having to engage in the kind of debate we’ve just come through.”
This means we will see what we have just seen over and over again, although I doubt that McConnell will act the same way with a Republican in the White House. The calls for abolishing the debt limit sound ever more attractive. It is not needed, as I wrote recently referring to an article by The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki, and now Bruce Bartlett, a former senior advisor to presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, echoes the same sentiments. But I am afraid that’s not going to happen.
Instead, we are likely to see more evidence of not only a divided but in many ways a dysfunctional government, where a Tea Party minority in the Republican party used the debt limit to take the country to the brink of economic disaster — “a war on America,” as Joe Nocera writes today in the New York Times.
”America’s real crisis is not a debt crisis,” Nocera writes, “it’s an unemployment crisis.” He echoes a deep disappointment among the progressives in the Democratic party that this deal does nothing towards creating new jobs and instead might even hurt the economy and whatever efforts to find new jobs for today’s 14 million unemployed Americans. And, they complain, there are no new revenues, no new taxes for even the richest of Americans. That’s not shared sacrifice. That’s not fair.
So 95 Democrats in the House, among them the Black and Progressive Caucuses, voted no, and so did seven progressives in the Senate, like Bernie Sanders and Tom Harkin. But so did also 19 of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate and 66 Republicans in the House, arguing that the deal did not go far enough, that the cuts were not deep enough. A sign of a good compromise? Maybe. But it is also a sign of a fundamental battle in America today, about the role and size of this country’s government. And that battle is far from over.
So where are we now that default has been avoided? Relieved? Yes. Satisfied? No. And the sad thing is that we can soon expect new battles. Just wait until the Congressional Super Committee of 12 is formed. It has until Thanksgiving to come up with cuts for another $1.2 trillion. And then we are in an election year. So enjoy August while you can. I will.