Debt Ceiling

Vote No, Hope Yes Caucus

Congress works in wondrous ways with GOP members voting no on bills they hope will pass so they aren't blamed for the results of not passing.The House and Senate votes this week to raise the federal debt ceiling to avoid the threat of default highlighted what a New York Times analyst called the "Vote No, Hope Yes Caucus" in Congress.

Debt ceiling legislation passed in the GOP-controlled House with only 28 Republican "yes" votes. Times reporter Carl Hulse said that "was the lowest percentage for a majority on passage since the House began publishing electronic data on votes in 1991."

The Senate struggled to close off debate with the required 60 votes until GOP leaders relented and provided the handful of votes needed to bring up the legislation for an actual vote.

"The results in both the Senate and House," Hulse concluded, "illustrate the countervailing political forces at work on Capitol Hill and how the current partisan environment makes governing so difficult."

Rhyming History Without Reason

Mark Twain said history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Could we be repeating steps that led to the recession following the Great Depression?All the attention on the federal debt ceiling, deficits and debt may be a mistimed priority as some commentators and historians argue U.S. policymakers should focus instead on stimulating consumer demand to get economic recovery into full gear.

"Most people realize that a failure to raise the debt ceiling could be catastrophic," says Millsaps College historian Robert McElvaine, who is author of The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941. "But the drastic cuts in federal spending that some Republicans are demanding in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling would be a repeat of the mistakes that prevented a full recovery in the 1930s and then caused a secondary collapse in 1937. Enacting these cuts is the most likely scenario in which the current recession could become a new depression."