Rabid orthodoxy can make you clueless.
In a normal political party, where in the 2022 elections you barely squeak by with a House majority, lose a Senate seat, and Democrats take total control of two state legislatures (Michigan and Pennsylvania) and add governorships (Maryland, Massachusetts and Arizona) to your party’s one governorship pickup (Nevada) while largely controlling the redistricting process, well, maybe a little introspection should be required. I imagine you’d want to see what went wrong and how you can keep this from happening again in 2024.
It’s not hard to figure out why this happened. A lot of terrible candidates were nominated (that were mostly endorsed by Donald Trump) with terrible positions that excited the Republican base but turned off Independents. This was particularly true with anti-abortion legislation advanced in many states, of major concern to most women voters (who were 55% of voters.)
But thanks to gerrymandering, every incumbent Republican in the House was virtually guaranteed to win reelection. A majority of these Republicans entered office on or after the 2010 election, so they were overwhelmingly MAGA-heads, even before Trump invented the term MAGA. Which meant their bare House majority was overwhelmingly extreme.
Arguably, even the few House Republicans that self-describe as moderates aren’t. The Republican House caucus is now essentially a large group of shit-throwing monkeys. Now that they finally figured out who their speaker-in-name-only will be (Kevin McCarthy), they are anxious to start legislating. In other words, they are all set to start flinging the shit. They are out for blood and retribution. Nothing else matters.
The good news is that if that’s how they actually spend the next two years, they are likely to quickly lose their slim House majority. Their favorable Senate map in 2024 could be in jeopardy too. Since you can count on them to nominate some sort of MAGA-head as their presidential candidate, they’ll likely convince voters to give Joe Biden, not a terribly-liked president, another four years. At least Biden doesn’t do crazy stuff.
Any legislation they pass is almost certainly doomed to fail in the Senate. In the unlikely event it passes there, they can’t overcome a Biden veto. So if the party was sober they’d figure out that maybe some legislation that the rest of the country actually supports would be in order.
Their one point of leverage is the debt ceiling. It’s now been breached and the Treasury Department is taking now-routine “extraordinary measures” to not default on our debt, which may get us through June. But House Republicans made it clear that they are taking the debt ceiling issue hostage and don’t plan to compromise. They will use it to try to force draconian cuts to entitlements, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Social Security enjoys 96% approval, including from 93% of Republicans. Medicare is hugely popular. Worse, a 2020 poll found 63% support for Medicare for All, essentially a universal single-payer health care system. 34% of Republican and Republican-leaning people were in favor of it too. Who would think there were so many Republican socialists out there, at least when it comes to health care?
Cuts to Social Security and Medicare, if included in a debt ceiling compromise, would cut the income and reduce medical benefits for most of their own voters. Their position makes no sense and looks like electoral suicide for their Party. I can’t imagine too many residents of The Villages in Florida will be voting the straight party line after that. Worse, merely the threat to do it should make their voters nervous.
But the real shit show starts when the financial markets come to consensus that the U.S. government is not credit-worthy. Republicans seem clueless that it’s large federal government spending that keeps our economy humming so well in both good and bad times. It’s why our country will probably avoid a recession. The ecosystem that feeds off Uncle Sam is huge. Without it, expect huge increases in interest rates, not just for the government, but for you. Expect millions of jobs lost and inflation to soar. It may actually turn into a depression.
If I were Joe Biden, I’d be looking at new options. Some have suggested minting a one trillion dollar platinum coin, which is legal and does not require the approval of Congress. That’s something of a desperation measure. A saner approach would be for Biden to ask the Supreme Court to rule that the debt ceiling law is unconstitutional. It should be because the 14th Amendment to our constitution says:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
Given our conservative court though, the plain text of the 14th Amendment may not convince them. So unless the Republican House starts using smelling salts, the safest approach for Biden would be to issue an executive order to the Treasury to sell more public debt. Sure it will be inflammatory, but only because the Republican Party wants to use one law to overturn the funding mechanisms of much of government and ninety years of entitlement programs. That’s clearly not how our founding fathers envisioned legislation working.
House Republicans have no idea how stupid their ideas are on the debt ceiling. If they want to stave off an electoral rout in 2024, it’s best to find a way to pass a debt ceiling extension that sees them through the 2024 election, and soon. Because if they start flinging the shit, they ultimately will be buried neck deep in it.