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The GOP-led House narrowly passed a phony debt-ceiling bill tied to draconian domestic spending cuts and discretionary spending caps, 217 to 215. All Wisconsin GOP representatives approved the bill, with Wisconsin Democratic representatives voting no.

“The House Republican debt-ceiling-and-cuts bill puts the U.S. economy at grave risk by using the need to raise the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to force a set of unpopular, harmful policies … that would make deep cuts … leave more people hungry, homeless and without healthcare coverage; and make it easier for wealthy people to cheat on their taxes. In exchange for … (these) policies, the bill would only raise the debt ceiling through early next year, creating a new opportunity for House Republicans to use the next deadline for another round of hostage-taking” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

It’s a cynical and deceptive bill. The NYT reported: “Beseeching his colleagues privately to back the bill, (Speaker) McCarthy repeatedly told them to ignore the substance of the measure, which would never become law, and instead focus on the symbolic victory of passing any legislation to show (President) Biden they were serious about their demand for spending cuts.” Republicans are gambling that Biden can be rolled to support massive cuts. Worse, the GOP, defying facts, denies or minimizes the looming economic catastrophe. There is a broad consensus that failure to raise the debt limit will cause the stock market to plummet, decrease the U.S. credit rating, higher interest rates, mass unemployment and a recession. Americans do not want this.

McCarthy and House Republicans are also cynically pretending that the bill is not cutting $ trillions. McCarthy said: “I don’t call them cuts because I call them savings.” A talking point echoed in Wisconsin GOP Representative Bryan Steil’s press release – “U.S. Rep. Steil: Votes to limit spending, save taxpayer dollars, and grow the economy.” Similarly, Wisconsin GOP Representative Tom Tiffany said the bill “saves $4.8 trillion over 10 years.” Both playing the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.

GOP cynicism and deception is bottomless, CNN reported: “The bill also seeks to rescind unobligated (unspent) funds from the COVID-19 relief packages that Congress passed … . The unobligated funds include money to shore up financially troubled multiemployer union pension funds, transit infrastructure grants that have already been allocated and support for veterans’ medical care … .”

However, the good news is that the GOP bill is dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate. The bad news is that the political theater solved absolutely nothing.

Wisconsin GOP Representative Derrick Van Orden huffed and puffed: “There will be no further negotiations from my office.” But GOP brinksmanship in not raising the debt ceiling without conditions will cause a train wreck. Perhaps a panicked Wall Street will focus the GOP. That might lead to five House Republicans joining all House Democrats to force a vote on a clean debt-ceiling increase. Finally, will Wisconsin GOP Representative Mike Gallagher be one of the five to step up to the plate?

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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