DECEMBER 14, 2021
Dayen on TAP
Why Are Democrats Enabling Republican Sabotage?
Senate Dems can raise the debt limit to any level they want—why are they allowing another showdown in 2023?
Today, the Senate is poised to pass an increase in the debt limit, and all indications are they plan to raise it to a level that ensures they won’t have to deal with it again until 2023. But 2023 is not all that far away. With fears of a midterm wipeout, Republicans could very well be in charge at that time, risking the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. In fact, they have openly said they would.

As The Washington Post reports today, conservative lawmakers are already vowing that the next debt limit showdown will not end as meekly as this one. They have castigated Mitch McConnell for compromising away a debt limit increase and getting nothing in return. “What they are envisioning is, at a minimum, a return to the brinkmanship seen the last time a Democratic president confronted a new Republican majority, in 2011,” the Post writes. “It already threatens to become the dominant domestic political clash ahead of the 2024 presidential election.”

There is no reason that it has to be! The bill passed last week allows Democrats to raise the debt limit by any amount with a simple majority, essentially kicking Republicans completely out of the process. They could raise it by a bajillion kajillion dollars. They could raise it enough to ensure borrowing headspace for the next hundred years.

Instead, the plan is to hand over a loaded gun to Republicans in 2023. We have narrowly avoided catastrophe with the debt limit too many times. The brinkmanship in 2011 needlessly cost the United States billions, weakened its credit rating, and damaged its credibility. Any sane legislature would have shot the debt limit directly into the sun at the first opportunity.

Maybe raising the debt limit by many trillions would make a couple of moderates—Mr. Manchin, Ms. Sinema—a little skittish. But both of them happen to be up for re-election in 2024. It would be far worse for them politically to preside over the vaporizing of the U.S. economy in their election cycle than to have acted to avoid such disaster three years earlier.

It beggars belief that Democrats see a situation where Republicans are explicitly announcing that they will spend the final two years of Biden’s first term pointlessly threatening economic Armageddon, and respond with “Sign me up for that.”
The Obscure Democrat Enabling Republicans on Bank Regulation
Michael Hsu, the acting comptroller of the currency, has gone silent after initially siding with fellow Democrats on a bank merger review. BY DAVID DAYEN & LEE HARRIS
The Ivy League’s Legitimacy Crisis
Columbia University’s incredible profit bonanza after the pandemic is indicative of a wider problem. BY ALEXANDER SAMMON
The Narrow Path to Averting War Over Ukraine
Hawks on both sides need to back off. The resolution of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is a useful analogy. BY ROBERT KUTTNER
Guantanamo in 2021: Are We a Nation of Laws or a Nation of Fears?
A Senate hearing last week recontextualized the debate over the prison. BY KAREN J. GREENBERG
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