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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The GOP plans to vote to pretend the debt ceiling doesn't exist. It's a good move for the party and the country.

Some on the left are calling the planned vote today to raise the debt ceiling without really raising it "The GOP's biggest cave yet."

I think it is something much better and more important than that. It could mark the beginning of the end of the ridiculousness that is the debt ceiling. This show vote has been taken dozens of times and most of the time the minority party pretends it is outraged - outraged! - that we are being forced to raise it again. Democrats and Republicans have taken turns doing that dance, and sometimes even got some semblance of concessions. But that seemed to change drastically in the summer of 2011, when the GOP was still riding high from historic wins in the House in 2010.

The resulting debate - if it can be called a debate - hurt the economy and was a large part of the reason S&P downgraded our credit for the first time in history.

Fortunately, this time President Barack Obama refused to even negotiate about raising the debt ceiling, which clearly has to happen. We must pay our bills or risk long-term fiscal consequences. Congress needs to authorize the requisite borrowing power the moment it authorizes spending. If it doesn't want to borrow, then it can increase taxes or cut spending. But it would actually have to be done at the time, and the show vote would no longer be necessary.

I think this also raises the possibility that a grand bargain that will begin to get our fiscal house in order could still happen, a compromise that would include some sort of tax reform that would increase revenue and entitlement reform as well, the kind of deal that will have the bases of both parties howling and screaming about their leadership selling them out. And it also needs to include provisions that would help strengthen the ongoing recovery.

It can be done. Moving away from constant brinkmanship might be the first step in that direction. 


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