The October 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling is coming up fast, and while President Obama says he won't negotiate over it, House Speaker John Boehner says the House won't raise it without some concessions on Obamacare. For most people, this is scary, because the standoff risks global economic calamity. But some Republican lawmakers think default wouldn't be so bad. The language of the "default deniers" of the 2011 debt debacle reemerged in the press this weekend, although different GOP lawmakers are peddling it.
This is the pro-apocalypse caucus: GOP lawmakers like Rep. Ted Yoho think that the U.S. should default to force a conversation about the national debt. Yoho told The Washington Post his plans on Friday: "I'm not going to raise the debt ceiling." The former veterinarian and freshman congressman thinks default would actually be good for the economy:
"I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke," Yoho said. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, that will sure as heck be a moment. "I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets," since they would be assured that the United States had moved decisively to curb its debt.
Most disagree. IMF Director Christine Lagarde said Thursday, "The government shutdown is bad enough, but failure to raise the debt ceiling would be far worse, and could very seriously damage not only the U.S. economy, but the entire global economy."
Republican Sen. Tom Coburn isn't worried about defaulting, because he thinks there's "no such thing" as the debt ceiling. On CBS News on Monday morning, Coburn explained:
"There's no such thing as a debt ceiling in this country because it's never been not increased, and that's why we're $17 trillion in debt. And I would dispel the rumor that's going around that you hear on every newscast that if we don't raise the debt ceiling, we'll default on our debt — we won't. We'll continue to pay our interest, we'll continue to redeem bonds, and we'll issue new bonds to replace those."
Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney says Obama is currently lying to the public, because, "We're not going to default; there is no default." He thinks that in default, the Treasury could just prioritize its payments until a bipartisan deal gets worked out in Congress. Meanwhile, Bloomberg News' Yalman Onaran reports that default could cause an economic crisis worse than what happened after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
In 2011, a few GOP lawmakers made these same arguements. Rep. Michele Bachmann advocated for not raising the debt ceiling while she was running for president in 2011. She later claimed that Standard & Poor lowered the U.S.'s AAA rating because Congress decided to raise the debt ceiling. Her claim was wrong — S&P wanted to see the limit raised, and it expressed concern over the fact that “the statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.”
At the time, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey also thought default wouldn't be that bad, and Republican Rep. Devin Nunes actively campaigned for it, as a way for lawmakers "to go through a period of crisis that forces politicians to make decisions” on major policies affecting the budget. This year, Nunes has been one of the most prominent critics of fellow Republicans who called for shutting down the government in an attempt to defund Obamacare. "The whole thing was a joke from the beginning," Nunes told The Wall Street Journal. He has been less outspoken about the GOP strategy on the debt limit this time around.
These default deniers show a fracture in the Republican Party — they undermine Boehner's position that Republicans don't want to breach the debt limit, they just want to use it as a bargaining chip. "I don't want the United States to default on its debt," Boehner said on Sunday. "But I'm not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up." Flirting with breaching the debt limit is not the mark of a serious conversation.