Not even a day after members of Congress worked to head off default and end a standoff that closed the government for 16 days and cost the nation billions of dollars, Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman said it was wrong to oppose debt-ceiling negotiations and that he was looking forward to negotiating budget priorities when the current deal ends in January.
“This gives us breathing space,” he told KOA radio this morning in Denver. He went on to celebrate Wednesday’s deal as a “very temporary extension” and said he was looking forward to attempting to win budget concessions from Democrats as a condition of raising the debt ceiling again in January.
It has been unclear for the last two years whether all the members of Congress understand what the debt ceiling is and how it is related to the federal budget.
Raising the debt ceiling merely allows the government to pay back money it has already spent; that is, money it has already agreed to spend in the budget bills it has passed in previous years. Raising the debt ceiling authorizes no new spending. Negotiations over budget priorities traditionally take place when spending bills are introduced in the House and Senate. Raising the debt ceiling does not increase national debt. On the contrary, threatening not to raise it or stalling in raising the debt ceiling does increase the national debt by shaking the economy and tanking government investments.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers were furloughed the last two weeks while House Republicans sought to force the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by not paying for government operations and then threatening not to authorize the government to pay its bills. Government contractors across sectors were stalled in their work and will not receive back pay. Economists say financial loss will continue to grow in the coming weeks due in part to uncertainty about whether or not lawmakers will lock horns again in 90 days.
Coffman argued Americans shouldn’t look at the just-concluded standoff in isolation but at what he characterized as the successful debt-ceiling negotiations of 2011.
“In the last debt ceiling negotiation, we got conditions that in fact really made a difference in terms of bringing down spending,” Coffman said.
The standoff over the debt ceiling in 2011 also cost the nation billions. It rocked markets and sent the recovering economy careering down a rocky slope. It led to the first-ever downgrading of the nation’s credit rating. The federal Government Accounting Office estimated that delays in raising the debt ceiling in 2011 hiked government borrowing by $18.9 billion, mainly due to lost government investments.
That pain still fresh prompted business groups, including the conservative Chamber of Commerce, to implore House Republicans this month not to force negotiation over the already-agreed-upon government operating budget or the debt ceiling. Those groups were unsuccessful, as were the vast majority of interest groups in the country.
“The notion where the President says ‘I don’t want to negotiate, I don’t want to put conditions on these debt-limit increases, I just want them without end’ — that’s the wrong path for America,” Coffman said.