But perhaps the most destructive, least noticed part of the bill is a provision that would force virtually all federal regulatory machinery to grind to a halt.
Tuesday ReadsPosted: May 16, 2023 Filed under: Crime, Domestic terrorism, Economy, Global Financial Crisis | Tags: debt limit, GOP extortion, guns, mass shooting, mental illness, violence 12 Comments
I’m still trying to recover from Dakinikat’s post yesterday. She seems convinced that the Supreme Court will agree with the 5th Circuit that the way the Consumer Finance Protection bureau is financed is unconstitutional and their decision will lead to the downfall of the Federal Reserve, Social Security, Medicare, and other off-the-books programs. I’m not convinced it will happen, but I’m still extremely depressed by Dakinikat’s arguments.
But for today, I’m trying to set all that aside and just worry about what’s happening (or not happening) with the debt ceiling. Here’s the latest on that emergency.
This is an opinion piece by The Washington Post’s Katherine Rampell, who is very knowledgeable about economic issues: After breaking itself, Congress tries to break the rest of government, too.
The GOP House’s debt-limit-and-spending-cuts bill does a lot of things to sabotage the basic functions of government. It decimates spending on safety-net programs. It creates more red tape to block Americans from accessing services they’re legally eligible for. And it makes it harder for government to fund itself in the first place.
Tucked into Republicans’ debt-limit-ransom bill is some legislative language that has been kicking around Capitol Hill for a while, known as the Reins Act. If enacted, the law would prevent “major” agency regulations — somewhere around 80 to 100 per year — from going into effect unless Congress first approves each and every one.
To be clear, under current law, Congress already has the ability to rescind regulations it dislikes. This new bill would essentially change the default, so that no major regulation could take effect before Congress gives its blessing.
This change might sound reasonable. After all, tons of American problems have been dumped at the feet of executive-branch agencies (guns, immigration, health costs, etc.). It would be great if federal lawmakers got more involved in trying to solve literally any of them.
But if you think about how Congress actually functions (or rather, doesn’t), you’ll realize this is not an earnest attempt to get lawmakers to roll up their sleeves and conquer the Big Issues. It’s about throwing sand in the gears of the executive branch, so that no one can solve any issue. Ever.
Rampell explains why the system is set up the way it is.
There are two main reasons Congress currently delegates certain regulatory issues to executive-branch agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Securities and Exchange Commission.
First, some policy questions aretechnically challenging. What amount of arsenic in the air is “safe”? What should bethe technical standards for mammography equipment? How should the Volcker Rule be implemented in practice? As talented and hard-working as congressional staff are, they might not have the time or expertise to make informed decisions about such minutiae. Agency scientists or other subject-matter experts are tapped to weigh evidence, solicit input from the public, hold hearings, etc., to execute the objectives Congress has enacted.
The second reason is political.
There are plenty of policy questions that Congress has technical capacity to resolve but might prefer not to. Maybe lawmakers can’t come to an agreement within their caucus. Maybe they know that whatever they choose to do will be unpopular.
So: They punt, and make it some other government functionary’s problem.
For example, Congress has been unable to pass significant immigration reform in more than three decades, leaving the executive branch to address migration-related problems in sometimes legally tenuous ways (see: the legal limbo ofso-called dreamers, or former president Donald Trump’s unfunded border wall). Congress has all but abdicated many of its basic responsibilities to other branches of government, such as passing a budget, setting tariffs or deciding on abortion rights.
Or, you know, making sure the federal government doesn’t default on its debt. Apparently even some Republicans are now rooting for President Biden to direct Treasury to mint a new $1 trillion platinum coin to pay off government expenses or adopt some other deus-ex-machination.
Read more at the WaPo.
Biden and McCarthy are meeting again today. From The New York Times: Biden and McCarthy Set for More Talks as Debt Limit Deadline Nears.
The 3 p.m. meeting comes a day after Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen reiterated that the United States could run out of money to pay its bills by June 1 if Congress does not raise or suspend the debt limit.
Republicans have said they want to slash federal spending before lifting the debt ceiling. The president has maintained that raising the limit is a responsibility of Congress and should be done without conditions to avoid an economic disaster, even as he has said he is open to separate negotiations over spending.
Over the weekend, the White House projected cautious optimism regarding a potential agreement, but on Monday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy expressed doubts.
“I don’t think we’re in a good place,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I know we’re not.”
Some potential areas of compromise have emerged in recent days, however. Mr. McCarthy said on Monday that he wanted to negotiate some of the key provisions of the bill to raise the debt limit that House Republicans passed last month. Those include spending caps, permitting changes for domestic energy projects, work requirements for safety net programs like food stamps and clawing back unspent money allocated for pandemic relief programs. “All of that I felt would be very positive,” he said.
Most of the people on food stamps are children, so this would go along with the new Republican push to get rid of child labor laws.
In addition to Mr. McCarthy, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader; Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader; and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic leader, will join Mr. Biden at the White House.
The government hit the $31.4 trillion debt limit on Jan. 19, and the Treasury Department has been using accounting maneuvers to keep paying its bills. Mr. Biden is also scheduled to leave for Japan on Wednesday to attend the Group of 7 meeting, heightening the sense of urgency to make progress on the debt limit….
“We welcome a bipartisan debate about our nation’s fiscal future,” Mr. Schumer said on Monday. “But we’ve made it plain to our Republican colleagues that default is not an option. Its consequences are too damaging, too severe. It must be taken off the table.”
Ms. Yellen will warn on Tuesday that the standoff over the debt limit is already having an impact on financial markets and is increasing the burden of debt on American taxpayers. Investors, she will note, have become wary of holding onto government debt that matures in early June — when the government could start running out of cash.
“We are already seeing the impacts of brinkmanship,” Ms. Yellen will say at the Independent Community Bankers of America summit, according to excerpts from her prepared remarks.
The Washington Post: Liberals grow fearful Biden may reward GOP for weaponizing debt ceiling.
The White House’s liberal allies are increasingly worried that negotiations with House Republicans over the budget risk rewarding the GOP for threatening the U.S. economy with default, even as Biden administration aides insist the talks have nothing to do with the looming debt ceiling deadline.
Since last week, Biden aides have been in talks with staffers representing leaders in Congress about a deal to fund the federal government next year that would also raise the nation’s debt ceiling, which must be lifted by as soon as June 1 to avoid potential economic catastrophe. President Biden will host House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other top congressional leaders again on Tuesday for more discussions.
The fresh talks follow months in which Biden and his top aides insisted that the White House would not entertain making any trade-offs to raise the debt limit, saying that would set a dangerous precedent that encourages GOP brinkmanship. And yet, to some critics, the administration appears to be doing exactly that — following unrelenting pressure from the business community and even some moderate Democratic voices to enter bipartisan talks after the House passed a spending and debt limit bill last month.
Publicly, Biden administration officials are adamant that they are working with House Republicans on a deal to fund the federal government in the next fiscal year — not to raise the debt ceiling. Privately, however, even some Biden aides recognize that the negotiations appear to be in part about the debt limit. Behind the scenes, negotiators are clear that any deal on the budget must resolve the debt ceiling deadline, as well. Democratic negotiators also acknowledge that they will have to agree to more spending cuts if they want to secure a longer extension of the debt ceiling — an implicit recognition that lawmakers are bartering over the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, an approach Biden has repeatedly disavowed.
“The issue here is principle: If you accept the idea that you can, in essence, be held to blackmail with the debt ceiling, it will be done again and again. Not to be crass, but it’s essentially negotiating with terrorists who have taken hostages,” said Dean Baker, a liberal economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, a left-leaning think tank. “More and more people in progressive circles are becoming concerned with it.”
Of course most of the mainstream media is reporting on all this as if it’s a typical negotiation over a political dispute, and failing to point out that Congressed raised the debt limit with no fuss when Trump was in the White House.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Media Is Normalizing Debt-Ceiling Extortion. No, this isn’t how Congress always does it. It’s different and dangerous.
Ten years ago, when Barack Obama faced down an attempt by House Republicans to extract concessions in return for lifting the debt ceiling, he explained that he saw this tactic as inimical to functioning self-government. “If we continue to set a precedent in which a president … is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, ‘Well, we’re not going to … pay the bills unless you give us … what we want,’ that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely,” he explained….
But as the new Republican-led House seeks to renew the effort to use the debt ceiling as a hostage, a revisionist interpretation has taken hold: This isn’t a new or dangerous tactic, it’s just how Congress operates.
“The House Republicans’ insistence on negotiations and compromise is not hostage taking. It is the ordinary stuff of politics,” claims law professor Michael McConnell. “A standalone clean debt ceiling is dead on arrival … In modern times, the debt ceiling is raised with negotiations,” asserts Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman.
I didn’t put anything in the post about the Durham Report, but be sure to read this thread by Barb McQuade that lays out all the problems with it.
Voting Republican is either murder or suicide, or both.
What a fucking asshole that man is.
as dak put it elsewhere: he has one very lonely neuron.
“As talented and hard-working as congressional staff are, they might not have the time or expertise to make informed decisions about such minutiae.”
The thought of congresscritters, not even their staff, directly regulating, say, nuclear reactors, when some of them think the best way to get images of an embryo is by the woman swallowing a camera ….
To say they know nothing is being kind.