Let’s make a deal — now
Republican lawmakers have a right to use their legislative prerogatives to counter the unaffordable Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But that doesn’t mean the GOP House’s misguided mission to “defund” Obamacare, triggering a federal government shutdown in the futile process, was the right political move.
And refusing to raise the debt ceiling by Thursday’s deadline would be an even bigger error in judgment — for both the GOP and the nation.
So it was reassuring Monday night to see the Democratic Senate moving toward a bipartisan compromise to boost that debt limit.
Yet it was troubling Tuesday night to see the GOP House moving toward a competing bill without any Democratic support.
And yes, it has been alarming to see the Democratic president digging in his own partisan heels by adding demands that lower the chances of reaching an agreement in time.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., aptly put it this way Monday after his party’s offer to raise the debt ceiling until early next year was rejected: “It’s time for Democrat leaders to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”
And maybe both sides will offer affirmative answers to a balanced resolution before Thursday’s debt-limit deadline.
However, the Washington blame game is obviously a hard habit to break.
When Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., offered a bipartisan bill over the weekend to resolve both the shutdown and debt-limit arguments, President Barack Obama upped the ante with a call to end the sequester budget cuts.
A Senate framework that would lift the debt ceiling through Feb. 7 and finance the government through Jan. 15 emerged Monday night — though as of Tuesday it was unclear whether it would contain “sequester relief.”
The picture was even murkier in the House Tuesday after Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said representatives were working on a bill of their own.
And bitter words from both sides have made finding a way out of this mess even harder.
Last Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the shutdown charge in his chamber, told the Value Voters Summit in Washington: “This is an administration that seems bound and determined to violate every single one of our Bill of Rights. I don’t know that they have yet violated the Third Amendment, but I expect them to start quartering soldiers in people’s homes soon.”
Democrats have also indulged in harsh rhetoric. President Obama, at a news conference last week, likened GOP lawmakers who fairly wanted spending-cut negotiations as a condition of raising the debt ceiling to “hostage takers” engaging in “extortion.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., added her own dose of divisive rhetoric Monday by likening the GOP tactics to “domestic abuse.”
Enough with the insults. Today’s imperative is conciliation. Democrats and Republicans must come together to raise the debt ceiling — and to finally end the shutdown.
Yes, another debt-ceiling boost would be another sad signal that the U.S. government will keep living far beyond our means.
Yes, some experts insist that warnings, from the president and others, of imminent federal default if the debt ceiling isn’t increased Thursday are overstated.
But even if the government could technically avoid default in that reckless circumstance, there would be no avoiding panic in the financial markets.
That means both parties should give ground to get themselves — and us — out of this dangerous impasse.
And that requires elected officials in our nation’s capital doing their jobs, for a change, on a bipartisan basis.