As an increasing number of Republicans clamor for a “showdown” over raising the U.S. debt limit, the more sober-minded among them warn of the looming economic disaster such a move would cause. Aware that the U.S. will hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit on March 31 this year, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned his party that “if we don’t raise the debt ceiling,” there will be “financial collapse and calamity throughout the world.” Conservative commentators Bill Kristol and George Will echoed his sentiment, calling such right-wing myopia “silly” and “suicidal.”
Former Governor and likely GOP 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (MN), however, readily prescribed this economic kamikaze mission to the GOP today on Fox News Sunday. Pawlenty, whose failure to sign a state budget in 2005 forced 9,000 state employees to stop pubic services for nine days, told host Chris Wallace that GOP lawmakers “should not raise the debt ceiling” and should “take it one step further” by somehow “sequencing the pain of the bill” to prevent default:
WALLACE: Back in 2005, you allowed the government of Minnesota to shutdown for nine days because of a disagreement with a Democratic legislature about taxes and spending. Should congressional Republicans take the same tough stance when it comes to raising the debt limit and federal spending?
PAWLENTY: …I’m glad we had that showdown in Minnesota. As to the federal government, they should not raise the debt ceiling. I believe we should pass legislation, allow them to seek spending, as the revenue comes in to make sure they don’t default and have a debate about what other spending could be reduced.
WALLACE: You would say to Republicans up in the building behind me do not raise the debt limit?
PAWLENTY: That’s right. To avoid the default, I would take it one step further. Send the president a piece of legislation that authorizes the federal government to sequence the pain of the bill so we don’t default on the debt obligation and then have debate about how we reduce the other spending.
While Pawlenty heralds his 2005 shutdown as a way to force reduced spending, Wallace pointed out that he only ended the shutdown because he “blinked” by raising taxes, specifically a tax on cigarette packs which Pawlenty preferred to call “a health impact fee.” Admitting to the tax hike, Pawlenty said his tenure was still “transformational” in reforming spending and believes he “should’ve let the shutdown run longer” to secure more of his agenda. An agenda, Wallace notes, that will leave the state’s deficit even further in the hole.
Despite the devestating effect Pawlenty’s advice would have, at least eleven Republican lawmakers are signing on to freeze the debt limit and at least seven are prepared to shutdown the government to do so. Still a slew of others are readily threatening to vote against the debt ceiling unless specific, often regressive cuts are made. Joining Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Graham, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) reiterated that stance today on NBC’s Meet The Press. Insisting that the U.S. credit rating is threatened more by debt than by default, Coburn said he will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless spending cuts are made.
Of course, like Pawlenty, these lawmakers refuse take a lesson from history, namely the well-documented disaster that was former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 1995 government shutdown that “cost American taxpayers over $800 million.” But, if newly-elected Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) proves anything, that lesson won’t be learned anytime soon. When asked what would happen if the debt ceiling weren’t raised, Mulvaney voiced what appears to be the GOP lawmakers understanding of the issue: “Well I don’t know…No one seems to have the answer to that.”