Act of absurdity: Kelly Ayotte actually voted to raise the debt ceiling before she voted against it

Sen. Kelly Ayotte voted in favor of a resolution yesterday disapproving the debt ceiling hike that she voted for earlier this month. Charles P. Pierce describes this “act of absurdity:”

There was an act of absurdity in the U.S. Senate yesterday — and it was not called “convening for the day,” ya bastids. There were 27 Republican senators who voted “symbolically” to repudiate their own actual votes a couple of weeks ago to raise the debt ceiling. This is every single Republican who voted to raise the debt ceiling. It is important to know this because the ranks of the repudiators include notable “moderates” like Kelly Ayotte and our reasonable friend from South Carolina, Huckleberry J. Butchmeup. This is important to know because of the simple fact that, for pure, sweaty, bowel-whitening fear, there is no such thing as a Republican “moderate” any more. They are all terrified, at one level or another, of empowered and weaponized insanity.

Remembering Guinta’s complicity in debt ceiling crisis

One year ago, congressional Republicans threatened to force the government into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. In a letter to the editor, Herb Moyer reminds us of Congressman Frank Guinta’s complicity in this “dangerous partisan stunt” — and the lasting damage it did to the nation’s economy.

Congressman Guinta was a fan of letting us default on our bills, telling us that we could just choose which bills to pay and default on the rest; no harm done.

His recklessness was astounding. Last July, the US Chamber of Commerce warned House Republican leadership not to play brinksmanship games with raising the debt limit, saying, “Failure to increase the statutory debt limit in a timely fashion could have significant and long-lasting negative impact on the U.S. economy.” They were right.

In a crisis engineered by House Republicans, Speaker Boehner refused to increase the debt limit, and consumer confidence plummeted faster than during the economic crisis in late 2008. Businesses lost confidence and dramatically reduced hiring for the next four months. Our credit rating was downgraded, the stock market crashed, and it took a full year for confidence to recover.

Guinta: I Actually Voted For it Before I Voted Against It

Today Congressman Frank Guinta wrote leaders of the House and Senate urging them to work together to prevent $1 trillion in automatic, across-the-board defense cuts. Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter correctly points out that Guinta voted for the bill that could result in the cuts he says he now opposes.

"Congressman Frank Guinta is once again trying to hide his irresponsible record on defense cuts.

"He first led our country to the brink of default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling until the last second, causing a downgrade in our credit rating and insisting on the tea party Republican provision that there be a super committee that must cut defense and domestic programs if they cannot compromise.

"Republicans refused to compromise, and now he asks the government to refuse to carry out the blanket defense cuts he voted for. His uncompromising extremism and irresponsible votes hurt defense and national security, and I worry about the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard."

Bonus Quote of the Day: Beholden to a Pledge

So here we are, saddled with a Republican majority so beholden to a pledge to protect corporations and the top 1 percent that they can’t and won’t defend the middle class or work to protect essential programs. … And we have an exhausted and all too frequently unemployed middle class that is left wondering why corporations don’t have to pay taxes, why the top 1 percent aren’t included in the “shared sacrifice” formula and why this nation can’t pay its debts.

— Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

NH Congressmen on Debt Ceiling Votes

New Hampshire Congressmen Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass both voted in favor of the final negotiated plan to raise the debt ceiling. Their statements:

“The House has broken with the failed policies of the past and is chartering a new course. This bipartisan vote marks a significant shift away from decades of fiscal irresponsibility where both parties raised the debt ceiling without blinking an eye. This bill is far from perfect. But we shouldn’t let that eclipse its positive parts, because it accomplishes several important things that Granite Staters have repeatedly told me they want. It honors the spirit of Cut, Cap and Balance, which I still believe is the best vehicle for putting our country’s finances in order by making real cuts and implementing spending controls. It also requires Congress to act on a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would force Washington to finally live within its means. Plus, the bill allows the government to keep paying its bills, and it does it without raising taxes. Remember, this isn’t the end of the long battle; it’s only one small step in getting us back on the right path. But we are now one step closer to it than we were yesterday.”

— Rep. Frank Guinta

"While not perfect, this plan accomplishes several goals that are vital to getting our economy back on track and preventing a default. It gives our nation an opportunity to have a real debate on enacting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. It cuts spending more than it raises the debt ceiling. It puts in place a framework for a joint, bipartisan committee to make recommendations on deficit reduction measures before the end of the year. And it does all of this without raising tax rates on hard-working American families.

"No one said this would be easy, and I didn’t come back to Congress to avoid making tough decisions like this one. With this debate, we have taken the first steps to reforming the way Washington spends taxpayer money. It is only the beginning and there is still much work to be done. However, it’s encouraging that finally there is bipartisan recognition that deficits and the debt really matter."

— Rep. Charlie Bass

Frank Guinta’s “Blank Check” Lie

In a press release explaining his vote for the Boehner bill to raise the debt ceiling, New Hampshire Congressman Frank Guinta pulled out one of the ubiquitous GOP talking points.

"This evening I voted against a blank check for the President…"

Someone please ask Guinta to reread the U.S. Constitution. Congress has the sole power to appropriate money. Congress determines spending. It’s disingenuous and deceptive to say raising the debt ceiling gives President Obama a “blank check.”

This is a straight-up lie. Not the everyday, casual fudging that politicians do, but a straight up lie. As the Government Accountability Office explains: “The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred.”

This isn’t a perfect metaphor, but not raising the debt ceiling is more like refusing to pay your credit card bill than it is akin to asking for a blank check. Congress appropriates funds; if they don’t want Obama to spend more, it’s within Congress’s power to withhold that money. That’s you know, in the Constitution. I believe the GOP insisted on it being read at the beginning of the 112th Congress, but they don’t seem to have been paying attention.

Negotiations over Bush Tax Cuts Will Favors Dems

Ezra Klein says Republicans have had the superior negotiating position in the debt ceiling fight because Democrats are unwilling to even consider letting the country go into default.

Democrats are going to lose this one. Whatever deal emerges to raise the debt ceiling, we can be pretty sure it won’t include revenue, it won’t include stimulus, and it will let Republicans pocket a trillion dollars or more in cuts without offering anything to Democrats in return.

It’s difficult to see how it could end otherwise. Virtually no Democrats are willing to go past Aug. 2 without raising the debt ceiling. Plenty of Republicans are prepared to blow through the deadline. That’s not a dynamic that lends itself to a deal. That’s a dynamic that lends itself to a ransom.

But, he reminds us, the shoe will be on the other foot next year when the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire.

That amounts to a $3.6 trillion tax increase over 10 years, three or four times the $800 billion to $1.2 trillion in revenue increases that Obama and Speaker John Boehner were kicking around. And all Democrats need to do to secure that deal is — nothing.

This scenario is the inverse of the current debt-ceiling debate, in which inaction will lead to an outcome — a government default — that Democrats can’t stomach and Republicans think they can.

Debt Ceiling Fight “All Over but the Face-Saving?”

After comparing the proposals to raise the debt ceiling from House Speaker Boehner and Sen. Reid, Nate Silver concludes the fight is “all over but the face-saving.”

Both bills cut discretionary spending by about the same amount, roughly $1.2 trillion depending on which benchmark is used. Both set up a bipartisan fiscal commission with special powers. Neither raises taxes, or significantly changes entitlement programs.

A number of Republicans will vote no on Mr. Boehner’s bill — perhaps enough to kill it. The critical fact, however, is that most will vote yes — probably including some who had earlier claimed that they would not raise the debt limit under any circumstances. … Meanwhile, there have been few Democratic objections to Mr. Reid’s approach.

What that means is that a very large majority of Congress would be willing to vote for either Mr. Reid’s bill or Mr. Boehner’s. The bill that will ultimately become law may look more like one version than the other. … But it seems unlikely that the substantive or political differences between the approaches are large enough to turn that majority into a minority once a final version is settled upon.

Quote of the Day: No Penalty for Extremism

We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. … 

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

Paul Krugman

Guinta Signals Support for Boehner Debt Ceiling Plan

In an interview this morning on Talk Radio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, New Hampshire Rep. Frank Guinta expressed his support for Speaker Boehner’s plan to raise the debt ceiling.

Guinta conceded the Cut, Cap and Balance proposal is dead, but expressed optimism that Boehner’s plan can pass in the Senate. Guinta pointedly failed to say if he thinks the plan is likely pass the House, where it faces opposition from some House conservatives.

"We did try the Cut, Cap and Balance. I co-sponsored it. It got support in the House. The Senate has said no. So I am willing to then come back to the table and offer something substantive, but different.

"The reality, though, is that we’ve got a deadline. We’ve got a constitutional and congressional responsibility. My feeling is good government needs to prevail, which means let’s try to move forward with a bill that we feel can pass the Senate.

"I do believe that if this bill passes the House, it will go to the Senate and I feel that it will get bipartisan support. Harry Reid will take it up — he won’t like it — but he’ll take it up and it will probably pass."

You can listen to the entire interview here:

Frank Guinta’s Debt Ceiling Rock and Hard Place

The Los Angeles Times’ Kathleen Hennessey writes that the debt ceiling vote has exposed the Faustian bargain many freshmen congressmen made with tea party extremists. Case in point: Congressman Frank Guinta.

How strongly must freshmen like Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire hold out on the debt ceiling — and risk federal default — to appease people who voted for them?

But while Frank sold his soul to the tea party for votes, he looked to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce types for cash. And now each one has grabbed a limb and is pulling in the opposite direction.

Since taking office, Guinta has faced pressure from both sides. He met with tea party groups that urged him to hold the line. He also met with a business round table, where bankers warned him of the dangers of default.

So how is Frank going to talk his way out of this one?

"What I hear from people is it’s not the debt ceiling itself. It’s the spending," he added. "The debt ceiling is the tangible thing, but it’s the spending people are angry about."

Stay tuned.

Calls Target Bass & Guinta for Debt Ceiling Games

New Hampshire voters will soon be receiving calls holding Reps. Bass and Guinta accountable for “playing games with the debt ceiling.” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “We Don’t Quit” campaign will feature automated calls in 60 districts around the country, including both New Hampshire districts. Here’s part of the message:

“Congressman Frank Guinta and Speaker Boehner would rather our economy default just to protect tax breaks for Big Oil companies and billionaire jet-owners. Republicans quit negotiating with President Obama on raising the debt ceiling.

“This is serious. Guinta’s billionaire buddies will be ok. But we will pay the price if government can’t pay its bills. Our Social Security and Medicare benefits are at risk. Interest rates would spike for our credit cards, car loans, and mortgages. Our 401(k) retirement accounts would drop. And, gas and food prices would skyrocket.

“Enough is enough. Call Congressman Frank Guinta and tell him not to gamble our future to protect tax breaks for Big Oil and billionaires.”

Miscellany Blue