GOP In 2011: Anything But Jobs
Throughout the 2010 campaign cycle, Republicans capitalized on the struggling economy to bolster their case for election, promising to focus all their political efforts on job creation. Yet when the GOP assumed the majority in the House of Representatives, it quickly became clear that their "top political priority" — as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted — was to "deny President Obama a second term." As such, the GOP, particularly in the House, has spent its legislative time on anything and everything but legislation to help the struggling economy get back on its feet or to spur job creation. Instead, they've introduced bill after bill on hot-button issues, particularly women's reproductive health; they've dragged the economy to the brink of disaster by playing political games with the debt ceiling; they've done their best to undermine the social safety net by proposing cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps; and they've tried over and over to repeal or deny funding to the landmark Affordable Care Act. Even worse, a number of the measures they've proposed would actually destroy jobs.
GOP's 2010 Message: Creating Jobs "Has To Be The First Priority"
2010: GOP Focused On Jobs In Creating "Contract With America" Campaign Document. From The Hill:
House Republicans intend to make the economy and jobs a major part of the new Contract With America they hope to unveil in September.
Republicans argue jobs will be a winning issue for them this fall, partly because they opposed a stimulus package that has enlarged the government and budget deficit while doing too little to stop a skyrocketing unemployment rate that now stands at 9.5 percent.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) has been charged with putting together the section on jobs, which Republicans see as a unifying policy position for a conference that unanimously rejected President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package last year.
Roskam said he'll be meeting with small-business owners and other job creators rather than economists to develop the economic plank of a new conference platform.
"There's a sense of clarity that jobs are something that we need to focus on, and who better to talk to than employers and small business[es] and job creators?" [The Hill, 7/7/10, emphasis added]
September 30, 2010: Rep. Mike Pence: Creating Jobs "Has To Be The First Priority And I Believe Will Be The First Priority If Republicans Are Given Another Opportunity To Lead." According to O. Kay Henderson, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said: "I also believe that it will be imperative that the new congress focus just as much energy on getting our economy moving again, making sure that in the city and on the farm, Americans have more of their own hard-earned resources to invest in ways that will create jobs, so putting our fiscal house in order, creating policies that will open the doors of opportunity to families during this difficult economy and create jobs has to be the first priority and I believe will be the first priority if Republicans are given another opportunity to lead." [OKHenderson.com, 9/30/10, emphasis added]
November 30, 2010: Majority Leader Eric Cantor: "They Want To See Us Focus On Jobs." From Politico: "'Tonight's election is about listening to the people and that was the message that's being sent across this land is they don't like this health care bill, and they want to see us focus on jobs, and there's just been no results that match the expectations of the people,' Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is poised to become House Majority Leader, told CBS News late Tuesday." [Politico, 11/3/10, emphasis added]
2011: Dismantling The Affordable Care Act
January 5: House Republicans Introduce "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." From the Palm Beach Post:
With the swearing-in of the 112th Congress Wednesday, a new wrestling match over health reform starts, one that could be uglier than the first.
On Tuesday, House Republicans rang the bell on their repeal attempt with the red meat titled, "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." The bill will come up procedurally on Friday and could be voted on next Wednesday. It's not expected to pass, with a Democratic White House and Senate. But it's only the first round. [Palm Beach Post, 1/5/11]
- January 19: House Voted In Favor Of "Largely Symbolic" Repeal Bill. From NPR: "The new Republican-controlled House voted Wednesday 245-189 to repeal the historic health care overhaul legislation signed last March by President Obama, but the measure appears destined to prove largely symbolic." [NPR, 1/19/11]
February 18: The House Voted To Add Four Amendments That Would Defund The Affordable Care Act To Continuing Resolution. From ThinkProgress:
Moments ago, the House of Representatives passed four different amendments to the continuing resolution that would deny funding to the Affordable Care Act or the employees who are currently implementing the law, jeopardizing the law's consumer protections and potentially leading to the loss of some 500 federal jobs. Below are the relevant amendments:
- REHBERG #575 - prohibits funds in the bill from being paid to any employee, officer, contractor, or grantee of any department or agency funded by the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies portion of the bill to implement the provisions of ObamaCare. Passed: 239-187
- KING (IA) #267 - prohibits the use of funds in the bill from being used to carry out the provisions of ObamaCare. Passed: 241-187
- KING (IA) #268 - prohibits the use of funds in the bill from being used to pay the salary of any officer or employee of any federal department or agency with respect to carrying out the provisions of ObamaCare. Passed: 237-191
- EMERSON #83 - prohibits the use of funds in the bill from being used by the Internal Revenue Service to implement the individual mandate and penalties and reporting requirements of ObamaCare. Passed: 256-182 [ThinkProgress, 2/18/11]
April 5: GOP Proposed Budget That Would Repeal The Affordable Care Act. From "The Path to Prosperity":
The country needs to move away from this centralized system, not towards it. This budget starts by repealing the costly new government-run health care law, saving roughly $725 billion over ten years by repealing the new exchange subsidies and making sure that not a penny goes toward implementing the new law [PPACA]. [The Path To Prosperity, 4/5/11]
April 14: House Passed A "Largely Symbolic" Resolution To Block Funding For Health Care Law. According to The Hill:
The House on Thursday afternoon approved two resolutions that would amend the FY 2011 spending bill to block funding designated for Planned Parenthood and last year's healthcare law. But House passage is largely symbolic, as the Senate did not pass either of the bills.
Votes in both the House and the Senate were a condition that Republicans insisted on as part of last week's agreement on funding for the rest of the fiscal year. [The Hill, 4/14/11]
September 29: House GOP Tried To Defund Affordable Care Act Through Spending Bill. According to The Hill:
House Republicans released a draft spending bill Thursday that would cut off funding for many parts of the healthcare reform law, though the bill remains deadlocked in the Appropriations Committee.
The draft legislation would attempt to derail implementation of the law. It would specifically block any money from going to the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight - the office handling the bulk of the implementation effort - as well as the recently disbanded office in charge of setting up the controversial CLASS program. [The Hill, 9/29/11]
December 15: House-Passed Payroll Tax Cut Extension Included Health Care Law Rollbacks. From Politico:
Congress took a collective step backward in wrapping up a bitter year of legislating, as President Barack Obama's top priority over the payroll tax holiday became mired in a battle over unrelated, partisan issues.
House Republicans jammed through a version of the payroll tax bill Tuesday evening that calls for construction of the controversial Keystone KL oil pipeline, scales back an air-pollution rule, cuts Obama's health reform law and reduces the length of unemployment benefits. It was largely a message vote - the GOP bill is dead on arrival in the Democratic Senate and faced a veto threat anyway - but it sets the stage again for a final, frenzied bout of deal making that has defined this divided Congress. [Politico, 12/16/11]
2011: Undoing The Safety Net
April 5: The GOP Budget Proposed To Put Food Stamps Into A Block Grant Program. From "The Path To Prosperity":
Convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a block grant tailored for each state's low-income population, indexed for inflation and eligibility beginning in 2015 - after employment has recovered. Make aid contingent on work or job training. ["The Path To Prosperity", 4/5/11]
- Block Grants Would Allow States To Deplete Food Aid Funds When Faced With Budget Shortfalls. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "States would likely be able to shift funds away from food assistance to other purposes, which they would be tempted to do when they face large budget shortfalls (as they do today)." [CBPP.org,4/5/11]
- CBPP: Converting SNAP To A Block Grant "Would Further Weaken A Slumping Economy And Lead To The Loss Of Many More Jobs."According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "The Ryan plan would convert both Medicaid and SNAP to block grants, however, which means they would no longer respond automatically to increased need during recessions. That would not only increase hardship and destitution in recessions, but also would further weaken a slumping economy and lead to the loss of many more jobs." [CBPP.org, 4/6/11]
April 5: The GOP Budget Proposed To Create A Block Grant Program For Medicaid. From the "Path to Prosperity":
Secure the Medicaid benefit by converting the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant tailored to meet each state's needs, indexed for inflation and population growth. This reform ends the misguided one-size-fits-all approach that has tied the hands of so many state governments. States will no longer be shackled by federally determined program requirements and enrollment criteria. Instead, they will have the freedom and flexibility to tailor a Medicaid program that fits the needs of their unique populations. [The Path To Prosperity, 4/5/11]
- CBO: Block Grants Could Limit Medicaid Programs To The Point That "Providers Might Be Less Willing To Treat Medicaid Enrollees." In its analysis of the "Path To Prosperity," the Congressional Budget Office wrote: "If states reduced spending for their Medicaid programs, there would be a number of potential implications for both providers and beneficiaries. Given that payment rates for providers under Medicaid are already generally lower than they are under Medicare and private insurance, if states lowered payment rates even further, providers might be less willing to treat Medicaid enrollees. As a result, Medicaid enrollees could face more limited access to care." [CBO, 4/5/11]
- If States Have To Reduce Medicaid Benefits Or Eligibility, Low-Income Patients Will Have To Pay More Out Of Pocket And Providers Could Lose Money. In its analysis of the "Path To Prosperity," the Congressional Budget Office wrote: "If states reduced benefits or eligibility levels, beneficiaries could face higher out-of-pocket costs, and providers could face more uncompensated care as beneficiaries lost coverage for certain benefits or lost coverage altogether." [CBO, 4/5/11]
- Center for American Progress: Block Grant Funding Of Medicaid Would Cost 3 Million Jobs. From the Center for American Progress: "The conservative proposal to turn Medicaid into a block-grant program would not only be detrimental to the health of millions of Americans but also cost three million jobs-jeopardizing our economic recovery." [Center for American Progress, 2/28/11]
Children's Health Insurance
April 5: GOP Budget Sought To Institute CHIP Cuts That Would "Jeopardiz[e] Health Coverage For Up To One-Third Of Our Nation's Children." According to the children's advocacy group First Focus:
The Ryan budget imposes draconian cuts to both Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), jeopardizing health coverage for up to one-third of our nation's children who rely on either Medicaid or CHIP for their health care. Specifically, Chairman Ryan proposes to slash $771 billion out of current Medicaid and another $627 billion out of Medicaid as part of health care reform for a total of $1.4 trillion in federal Medicaid cuts. [...]
As a result, Medicaid and CHIP would see a total combined loss in federal and state funding of more than $2 trillion over the course of the next ten years - an amount that clearly jeopardizes the health and well-being of the more than 30 million children in this country who rely on Medicaid or CHIP for their health coverage. [FirstFocus.net, 4/7/11, emphasis added]
April 5: GOP Budget Proposed To Turn Medicare Into A Voucher System. From "The Path to Prosperity":
Save Medicare for current and future generations while making no changes for those in and near retirement. For younger workers, when they reach eligibility, Medicare will provide a Medicare payment and a list of guaranteed coverage options from which recipients can choose a plan that best suits their needs. These future Medicare beneficiaries will be able to choose a plan the same way members of Congress do. Medicare will provide additional assistance for lower-income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks. [The Path To Prosperity, 4/5/11]
- CBO: Under The Ryan Budget, "Most Elderly People Would Pay More For Their Health Care Than They Would Pay Under The Current Medicare System." According to the Congressional Budget Office: "Under the proposal, most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system. For a typical 65-year-old with average health spending enrolled in a plan with benefits similar to those currently provided by Medicare, CBO estimated the beneficiary's spending on premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures as a share of a benchmark: what total health care spending would be if a private insurer covered the beneficiary. By 2030, the beneficiary's spending would be 68 percent of that benchmark under the proposal, 25 percent under the extended-baseline scenario, and 30 percent under the alternative fiscal scenario." [CBO.gov, 4/5/11]
Click HERE to read much more about the GOP budget's impact on the social saftey net.
2011: Rolling Back Women's Reproductive Health Rights
January 7: Rep. Broun Bill Would Have Granted Legal And Constitutional Rights To Embryos. In January, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) introduced the Sanctity of Human Life Act, H.R. 212. According to Feminist Majority, the bill "provides that human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood." [Feminist Majority, accessed 10/3/11]
January 20: Rep. Fleming Introduced Bill That Would Allow Health Care Organizations To Refuse To Provide Abortion-Related Services Even When Required By Law. In February, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) introduced the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, which, according to Feminist Majority, "would amend the Public Health Service Act to allow health care organizations to refuse to provide abortion services or give information regarding those services. It would permit health care institutions to ignore public health laws that require them to provide pregnant women complete information about all of their options, to treat abortion patients whose health is at risk, or to cover abortions in cases of rape or incest." [Feminist Majority, accessed 10/4/11]
January 20: Rep. Chris Smith Introduced H.R. 3, The "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act." From RH Reality Check: "No one should be fooled by the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or H.R. 3, which was introduced today in the House of Representatives. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the main sponsor, claims that his bill would "only" codify, or make permanent, the Hyde Amendment, which is the annual appropriations rider that restricts Medicaid funding for abortion. But it would do much more than that. Rep. Smith's bill would go far beyond current law, seriously compromise women's access to reproductive health care, and hamstring government operations." [RH Reality Check, 1/20/11]
- H.R. 3 Could Force Insurance Companies To Drop Abortion Coverage From Private Plans. According to NPR's Morning Edition:
Smith's bill would do more than just write into law existing abortion restrictions. It would also eliminate tax benefits for insurance policies that cover abortion -- even abortions in most cases of medical necessity.
NARAL's Crane says the effect could be far-reaching.
"If you are a health insurance plan and you are selling your product, and all of a sudden it becomes that much more expensive because there are tax penalties imposed on it, you're probably going to change the nature of your product, and in this case we're quite certain that Chris Smith intends for health insurance plans to drop their abortion coverage," Crane said. [NPR's Morning Edition, 1/21/11, emphasis added]
- H.R. 3 Originally Sought To Narrow Definition Of Rape To "Forcible Rape." From Mother Jones:
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. [Mother Jones, 1/28/11]
- After Outcry, GOP Got Rid Of "Forcible Rape" Language. From Mother Jones: "In February, Republicans drew widespread condemnation for their "forcible rape" proposal, which legal experts said would have excluded statutory rape victims and others from obtaining abortions through Medicaid. Amidst public outcry and a protest campaign by left-leaning groups, Republicans abandoned the language." [Mother Jones, 5/3/11]
February 9: Rep. Olson Introduced Bill To Increase Administrative Requirements For States That Use Federal Money For Abortion Providers. In February, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) introduced H.R. 593, the Taxpayer Conscience Protection Act, which "directs each state that makes a Medicaid payment from federal funds during the fiscal year for any items or services furnished by an abortion provider to: (1) report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on all such payments, and (2) publish the report on a public Internet website of the state. It also requires an annual report to specified congressional committees on such reports, which shall also be published on a public Internet HHS website." [Rep. Pete Olson Press Release, accessed 10/4/11]
March 28: Rep. Stearns Introduced Bill To Provide Funds To Anti-Abortion "Crisis Pregnancy Centers." According to Mother Jones:
A bill that Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced in January would provide federal funds for the purchase of sonogram machines at organizations that counsel women against having an abortion (the American Independent reported on this bill last week). These crisis pregnancy outfits, sometimes called "pregnancy resource centers," are often run by religious groups; many have been found to provide women with false and misleading information to dissuade them from having an abortion.
The preamble of Stearns' bill makes it sound as though any nonprofit, tax-exempt organization could apply to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for grants to purchase ultrasound equipment. But the bill comes with stipulations. To be eligible for this grant, a facility would have to show every woman seeking services the ultrasound image and describe to them the "general anatomical and physiological description of the characteristics of the fetus." The facility would be required to provide women with "alternatives to abortion such as childbirth and adoption and information concerning public and private agencies that will assist in those alternatives." It also must offer its services free of charge. That last condition would disqualify abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, which charges on a sliding scale based on a woman's income. [Mother Jones, 3/28/11, emphasis added]
April 7: House GOP Threatened To Shut Down The Government Over Funding For Planned Parenthood. As reported by the Huffington Post: "The United States government is on the verge of shutting down over a dispute about subsidized pap smears, according to sources familiar with the budget negotiations. The White House and Senate Democrats have publicly capitulated to ever-increasing Republican demands for spending cuts, but negotiations over the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year have shifted their focus from money to so-called riders -- provisions that restrict the federal government from spending money on certain projects or entities. [...] At a late-night White House meeting between the president and key congressional leaders, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made clear that his conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through legislation known as Title X. 'This comes down to women's health issues related to Title X,' a person in the meeting told HuffPost." [Huffington Post, 4/7/11]
May: After Removing "Forcible Rape" Language From H.R. 3, Republicans Used A "Sly Legislative Maneuver" To Leave Open The Door To Statutory Rape Exclusions. According to Mother Jones:
[W]hile they've amended their legislation, which faces a floor vote in the House on Wednesday, Republicans haven't stopped trying to narrow the already small exception under which federal funding for abortions is permissible. They've used a sly legislative maneuver to make sure that even though the language of the bill is different, the effect remains the same.
The backdoor reintroduction of the statutory rape change relies on the use of a committee report, a document that congressional committees produce outlining what they intend a piece of legislation to do. If there's ever a court fight about the interpretation of a law - and when it comes to a subject as contentious as abortion rights, there almost always is - judges will look to the committee report as evidence of congressional intent, and use it to decide what the law actually means.
In this case, the committee report for H.R. 3 says that the bill will "not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape." The bill itself doesn't say anything like that, but if a court decides that legislators intended to exclude statutory rape-related abortions from eligibility for Medicaid funding, then that will be the effect. [Mother Jones, 5/3/11, emphasis added]
May 25: Rep. Foxx Amended A Bill Such That It Would Prohibit Graduate Medical Education Funds From Going Towards Training Doctors On How To Perform Abortions. According to GOP.gov, in May Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) offered an amendment to the Public Health Service Act that would "prohibit any funds made available under the Act to be used to provide any abortion or training in the provision of abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest, or in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed including a life endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself." [GOP.gov, accessed 10/3/11, emphasis added]
June 17: House Passed Rep. King Amendment Prohibiting Use Of Funds For RU-486, Including In Telemedicine Services. In June, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) added an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prohibit funds in the bill to be used for mifepristone, otherwise known as RU-486. According to the Iowa Independent:
U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron) successfully introduced an amendment to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012, HR 2112, to prevent any appropriations made possible by the bill to be used for mifepristone, for any purpose.
In introducing his amendment, King made clear that the purpose was to prevent Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from accessing a $15 million line item contained in the bill for development of telemedicine services; however, the language of the amendment is extremely broad. It states that "none of the funds made available by this Act may be used for mifepristone, commonly known as RU-486, for any purpose," which does not specifically target the telemedicine line item, but applies to any and all appropriations within the bill. [Iowa Independent, 6/17/11]
June 22: Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Introduced Bill To Impose Harsher Parental Notification Laws Concerning Interstate Abortions. In June, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which, according to The Hill, "would require abortion providers in states without parental notification requirements to notify parents about abortion procedures. The bill, H.R. 2299, would also make it a federal offense to transport minors across state lines to avoid a state's laws requiring parental notification of abortions." [The Hill, 6/27/11]
July 21: GOP Included A Provision To Ban Abortion Funds In Foreign Relations Authorization Bill. The House Foreign Affairs Committee supported a provision in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act that prohibits any international organization that promotes or performs abortions from receiving U.S. aid. From the Associated Press: "The panel backed a provision banning U.S. taxpayer money, usually Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide abortion information, counseling or referrals. Exceptions are for rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger." [Associated Press, 7/21/11]
October 6: Rep. Bachmann Introduced Bill To Require Abortion Providers Make The Fetus' Heartbeat Audible And Visible To Women Seeking An Abortion. In October, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) introduced the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act, which "would require that abortion providers make the unborn child's heartbeat visible through ultrasound, describe the cardiac activity, and make the baby's heartbeat audible, if the child is old enough for it to be detectable." [Bachmann.House.gov, 10/6/11]
October 13: The House Passed The "Protect Life Act." According to CNN:
The U.S. House passed a bill Thursday that would amend the health care law to bar federal funding for health plans that provide abortion services.
The vote was 251 in favor and 170 against.
The bill, the Protect Life Act, was sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Joe Pitts and gathered overwhelming Republican support. Only two Republicans voted against it, along with all but 15 Democrats. [CNN, 10/13/11]
- "Protect Life Act" Could Allow Hospitals To Refuse Abortions To Women, Even In Cases Of Emergency. According to Talking Points Memo:
A bit of backstory: currently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by a 1986 law known as EMTALA to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay or other factors. Hospitals do not have to provide free care to everyone that arrives at their doorstep under EMTALA - but they do have to stabilize them and provide them with emergency care without factoring in their ability to pay for it or not. If a hospital can't provide the care a patient needs, it is required to transfer that patient to a hospital that can, and the receiving hospital is required to accept that patient.
In the case of an anti-abortion hospital with a patient requiring an emergency abortion, ETMALA would require that hospital to perform it or transfer the patient to someone who can. (The nature of how that procedure works exactly is up in the air, with the ACLU calling on the federal government to state clearly that unwillingness to perform an abortion doesn't qualify as inability under EMTALA. That argument is ongoing, and the government has yet to weigh in.)
Pitts' new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren't willing to terminate pregnancies wouldn't have to - nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.
The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts' bill say. [Talking Points Memo, 2/4/11, emphasis added]
2011: Politicizing The Debt Limit Fight
In The Summer Of 2011, Prominent Economists Warned That A Failure To Raise The Debt Limit Could Have "Grave Long-Term Consequences." In June, a letter signed by some of the county's top economists, including six Nobel Laureates and five former presidents of the American Economic Association, warned Congress that not raising the debt limit would translate into higher prices for U.S. businesses and consumers:
The U.S. economy looks fragile at present. Economic growth has been too weak to generate sufficient new job creation. Reaching the limit on total outstanding debt could force a dramatic and sudden cut in federal spending that would destroy jobs and threaten the recovery. To remove spending from the economy at such a pivotal moment would be irresponsible.
Failure to increase the debt limit sufficiently to accommodate existing U.S. laws and obligations also could undermine trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government, with potentially grave long-term consequences. This loss of trust could translate into higher interest rates not only for the federal government, but also for U.S. businesses and consumers, causing all to pay higher prices for credit. Economic growth and jobs would suffer as a result. [Economic Policy Institute, 6/29/11, emphasis added]
- Pres. Reagan Raised The Debt Ceiling 18 Times; Pres. George W. Bush Raised It Seven Times. From PolitiFact:
Here, we are looking at Obama's claim that, "President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it seven times."
We'll go straight to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which keeps tabs on when the debt ceiling has been raised.
Among its historical tables is one labeled "Statutory Limits on Federal debt 1940 - Current" (Table 7.3) The table lists 106 increases to the federal debt limit since 1940.
More specifically, it lists 18 increases to the debt ceiling between February 1981 and September 1987. In other words, there were 18 under President Ronald Reagan, as Obama said. And there were seven increases between January 2001 and January 2009 -- during George W. Bush's presidency. We should also note that it has been raised three times already under President Obama, on Feb. 17, 2009, Dec. 28, 2009 and Feb. 12, 2010. [PolitiFact, 7/25/11]
May 9: Speaker John Boehner Vowed Not To Increase The Debt Limit "Without Significant Spending Cuts." In an address to the Economic Club of New York, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said: "Without significant spending cuts and changes to the way we spend the American people's money, there will be no debt limit increase." [Speaker.gov, 5/9/11]
Late June: Republicans Walked Out Of Negotiations On Raising The Debt Ceiling After Democrats Requested One Dollar In Tax Increases For Every Five Dollars Of Spending Cuts. From the Wall Street Journal: "A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Vice President Joseph Biden had agreed on cuts that total about $1 trillion over 10 years, participants say. They were shooting for about $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction, but when Democrats insisted about $400 billion in tax increases be considered, the Republicans walked out." [Wall Street Journal, 6/28/11, emphasis added]
Just Two Weeks From The Deadline, Speaker Boehner Held A Vote On Debt Limit Bill With "No Signs Of Compromise," Despite Promise Of Veto. From Politico:
House Speaker John Boehner confirmed a POLITICO report that he had met again privately with President Barack Obama at the White House on Sunday to try to get debt talks back on track. But ignoring Obama's veto warning, Boehner will press ahead Tuesday with House votes on a revised debt ceiling bill that shows no sign of compromise on the spending and tax policy differences behind the crisis.
Indeed, with the Aug. 2 deadline exactly two weeks away, the House GOP is doubling down its bet with 10-year statutory spending caps intended to wring $5.8 trillion in unspecified savings from the government during the next decade - more than twice the $2.4 trillion debt ceiling increase that is allowed. And in his haste to act, Boehner will bring the so-called Cut, Cap and Balance bill to the floor under exactly the type of procedure he has said he abhors: limited debate and with no real review by any legislative committee. [Politico, 7/18/11]
In Late July, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Was Still Refusing To Consider A Debt Limit Increase That Included Tax Increases Or Didn't Include Spending Cuts. According to a press release by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA):
House Republicans are working in good faith to find a middle ground to prevent default and meet the President's request for a debt limit increase in a manner that achieves serious spending cuts and puts in place binding reforms to address our debt crisis and get our economy back on track. We have worked for months to back the President and Congressional Democrats away from their demand for a blank check to keep spending. We have fought to ensure that any increase is accompanied by equal spending cuts and reforms that change the way Washington works - and, most importantly, we will not raise taxes in this tough economy. [...]
The two-step framework that the Speaker and I laid out to our members today is not perfect - as we've said for months, we would have much preferred to vote to increase the debt limit only once, but the President and his party continued to make demands which we cannot meet - namely tax increases. In this new framework, we will achieve spending cuts that exceed the amount of the debt limit increase, cap spending for the next ten years and offer a path to achieve serious reforms through a bipartisan, bicameral commission. Our plan will responsibly prevent default and meet the President's full request for a debt limit increase over time. The President's reason for opposing this common sense plan is to avoid an election year fight on spending and taxes. Though he has warned Congress not to call his bluff, I remain hopeful that he and his party will work with us to move forward on this common sense plan and won't leave the strength of the economy and millions of American jobs hanging in the balance for election year political posturing. [Rep. Eric Cantor Press Release, 7/25/11]
August 2: President Obama Signed A Debt-Limit Compromise. From CBS News:
President Obama signed a hard-fought, last-minute compromise bill to avert economic catastrophe Tuesday, saying the deal to cut spending and increase the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit marked an "important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means."
The bill, he said, was the outcome of a "long and contentious debate" to avoid a man-made economic disaster that he described as creating "unsettling" economic uncertainty. He said that while voters chose divided government, "they sure didn't vote for dysfunctional government."
"It shouldn't take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to get together and do their jobs," the president said. He added: "Our economy didn't need Washington to come along with a manufactured crisis to make things worse." [CBS News, 8/2/11]
August 5: Standard & Poor's Downgraded U.S. Credit Rating For The First Time In History, Citing Republican Actions And Rhetoric About Defaulting On The Debt. From Talking Points Memo:
Standard & Poors has a specific justification for downgrading the U.S. bond rating, and it's deadly for Republicans. It wasn't just that Congress showed itself to be reckless and dysfunctional, or that the GOP shows no sign of ever ending their anti-tax jihad. It's that for a period of weeks, some lawmakers (read: Republicans) were quite literally shrugging off the risks of blowing past the August 2 deadline, running out of borrowing authority, and missing payment obligations.
"[P]eople in the political arena were even talking about a potential default," said Joydeep Mukherji, senior director at S&P. "That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable," he added. "This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns." [...]
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) warned against default, but for a time was willing to go past August 2.
"The markets are not fooled by some date imposed to say that that is the trigger for the collapse," he said at a Virginia jobs forum in May. "I think the markets are looking to see that there is real reform." [...]
When Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that missing the August 2 deadline would put the country in "an awful lot of jeopardy, Rep. Louie Gohmert reacted by saying, "[t]he problem with the Speaker, and him saying that, is he believes the President. And I would encourage the Speaker not to believe the President anymore when the President says things like that." [...]
This extended beyond the halls of Congress, too. Taking their cues from the right, GOP Presidential candidates stood opposed to raising the debt limit. In response to a question from TPM, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said he wasn't sure a temporary U.S. default would have calamitous consequences. "Maybe not. We don't know," he said.
Nebraska GOP Senate candidate Jon Bruning, who, if he wins, will be faced with a debt limit vote in early 2013 said, "[Default] may be something that has to happen to make the fundamental changes that are necessary in the American governmental system. We have to shrink it. And, if the Democratic Party that controls the White House and the Senate doesn't understand it, default may be necessary." [Talking Points Memo, 8/12/11]
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