A Debt Ceiling Scenario

I’ve long believed that neither Paul Ryan nor Mitch McConnell were quite nuts enough to fail to extend the debt ceiling. It’s not even mainly that McConnell at least likely understands how terrible it would be for the US to default on its obligations. No, it’s that failing to pass a debt ceiling increase would be political suicide for Republicans. Their major claim (however undeserved) to the public’s trust — that Republicans are the party of fiscal probity — would be exploded for a generation or more.

So I’ve been confident that if push came to shove McConnell runs something through by unanimous consent, or some other means. And I’ve been almost as confident that when Ryan finds he cannot tame the crazies in his own party, he accepts Democratic votes to get a majority. So while the debt ceiling vote is easily the biggest domestic political issue on the near-term horizon, and even today there is no obvious road from there to there (not to mention precious few legislative days when Congress is actually in session), I wasn’t worrying about it all that much.

Indeed, both Sen. McConnell and now Speaker Ryan have promised to get a bill out of Congress.

But now there’s a new wrinkle: suppose Congress passes an eleventh-hour bill and Trump vetoes it?  He hasn’t said he would in so many words, but the signs are there in his fued with McConnell; there may be no geological formation known as Trump Peak, but Trump pique could be a giant crater.

After all, Trump has tweeted that he wants the budget to be tied to funding for the Gran Muralla, and wouldn’t mind a government shutdown if he doesn’t get it.  In terms of really dumb ideas, t’s not that far to the debt ceiling. And Office of Management and Budget director, Mick Mulvaney originally argued that a US default was not such a big deal — although he’s now recanted and said he wants it raised too. 

If there’s a veto, and I think at this point there’s really nothing we can’t put past the guy, we don’t just need a majority in both houses, we need a super-majority — and maybe in a hurry. Are the votes there?

Image by DonkeyHotey, subject to CC BY 2.0 license.

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