Right now, Congress’ top priorities should be growing the economy and creating good middle class jobs so we build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years. But a few extreme Republicans in Congress are attempting to reverse that progress by shutting down the government and threatening to force the United States to default on the bills it has already racked up and owes.
For decades, Congress has paid its bills dozens of times by raising the debt limit on schedule with little drama or delay. Unfortunately, as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew noted on Tuesday, that all changed two years ago when:
“…the issue of raising the debt ceiling turned into a high stakes political drama. We saw for the first time a debate take place over whether the United States should voluntarily default on its obligations. Some actually argued that default was a viable outcome. There were in fact members of Congress willing to default on our full faith and credit rather than reach a good faith compromise.”
Even the hint of defaulting on our obligations by a minority of Republicans in Congress had great consequences for our economy in the summer of 2011:
- The stock market plummeted 17%
- The US credit rating was downgraded
- Consumer confidence dropped to its lowest points since the financial crisis in 2008
- Widespread uncertainty for middle class families
- Businesses froze hiring—initially reported zero jobs added for August of 2011, and even with later revisions was one of the lowest months of job growth over the last two years
That’s why the President has been clear that there is no negotiating over the whether or not Congress should pay its bills; Congress needs to pass a budget to keep the government functioning for the American people. Many Republicans have agreed that it would be reckless and irresponsible to use the threat of default as a bargaining chip:
Sen. Kelly Ayotte: “I don’t think that shutting down the government is going to be productive.” [CNN, 9/18/2013]
Rep. Tom Cole: “….shutting down the government to, you know, get your way over an unrelated piece of legislation is political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum. It’s just not helpful, and I think it’s the sort of thing that can create a backlash, that could cost the Republicans majority in the House…” [Fox News Network, 7/24/13]
Sen. Bob Corker: “Oh, I think it’s a silly effort. And what people are really saying who are behind that effort is, we don’t have the courage to roll up our sleeves and deal with real deficit reduction and spending decisions.” [MSNBC, 7/30/13]
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry: “This president is not going to sign a de-funding of his health care bill into law. He’s not going to do that…it is up to congress to not be about theatrics.” [Bellevue Leader, 8/15/13]
Sen. John Cornyn: “I don’t think that any reasonable person thinks there’s anything to be gained by a government shutdown,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “Rather than a shutdown of government, what we need is a Republican victory in 2014 so we can be in control. I’m not sure those are mutually compatible.” [AP, 9/18/13]
US Chamber of Commerce: “It is not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown that might trigger disruptive consequences or raise new policy uncertainties washing over the U.S. economy. Likewise, the U.S. Chamber respectfully urges the House of Representatives to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner and thus eliminate any question of threat to the full faith and credit of the United States government.” [Chamber of Commerce Letter to U.S. House of Representatives, 9/18/13]
But now reasonable Republicans in Congress are being held hostage by a few extreme members of their own party who are holding the economy and middle class families hostage to an ideological agenda that has no chance of becoming law.
Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth. The last thing we can afford right now is a decision from Congress to throw our economy back into crisis by refusing to pay our country’s bills or shutting down the government.