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House Postpones Debt Limit Deadline to May 18

Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore

The U.S. House of Representatives, led by Speaker John Boehner and his Republican allies, voted to put off the debt ceiling fight until May 18

This is good news—no doubt about it—and it shows the power of working people when they make their voices heard. But don’t think for a second that Republicans have given up trying to tank the economy to get their way. Or trying to cut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefits. Or trying to cut taxes for Wall Street and rich people. Because they haven’t and they won’t. This fight is still on.

Think of the debt ceiling as the first skirmish in the larger struggle to stand up for working families and honor the results of the past election. There are two more budget battles on the horizon. One is about canceling across-the-board budget cuts scheduled for March. The other is the threat by Republicans in Congress to shut down the government on March 27. And there may be a third budget battle over raising the debt ceiling again in May.

Since Republicans have not given up holding the economy hostage to get their way, and have not even changed their ransom demands, working people will keep telling our elected representatives the same thing we have been telling them for months:

  1. No benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare.
  2. Cancel the across-the-board budget cuts scheduled for March, and close loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2% of Americans instead.

Some of our friends on Capitol Hill seem to be getting the message. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) recently called on Republicans to stop already with the manufactured budget crises and the hostage-taking:

For years, congressional Republicans have used every crisis they could manufacture to litigate the federal budget outside the regular budget process without any regard for the impact of their actions on workers and the economy. From threats of government shutdown each time an appropriations bill was about to lapse, to the artificial debt ceiling crisis of 2011 that required the Budget Control Act, to the year-end fiscal cliff brinkmanship—Republicans have time and again pulled budget negotiations out of the Budget Committees in ways that rattled the markets, hurt the economy and increased uncertainty.

In fact, on the very same day that Republicans came out with their latest effort to hold the debt limit hostage in a claimed attempt to move the budget process toward regular order, they doubled down on their plan to use the upcoming negotiations on sequestration and a potential government shutdown to extract more cuts to programs seniors and middle-class families depend on.

Republicans can either say they want to have a budget debate in the Budget Committees, or they can say they would prefer to negotiate the issue lurching from crisis to crisis—but they can’t say both. It simply doesn’t make sense. 

So if Republicans are truly interested in moving this debate back into the Budget Committees and back to regular order, then they ought to actually deliver on that rhetoric. That means putting a stop to the debt limit hostage-taking, ending the constant brinkmanship and truly engaging in an honest effort to work with us toward the balanced and bipartisan budget deal the American people expect and deserve.

After passage in the House, the legislation to temporarily suspend the debt ceiling now moves on to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will bring the bill up for a vote without any changes. President Obama also has said he will not oppose this delay.

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