As I've been saying for some time, when it comes to violating previously unquestioned norms of behavior, the Republicans are the party of "Yes we can!" and the Democrats are the party of "Maybe we shouldn't." As Think Progress tells us, Mitch McConnell is quite clear that since hostage-taking worked so well for Republicans this time around, they're quite happy to do it again, and again, and again:
MCCONNELL: It set the template for the future. In the future, Neil, no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we’ll be doing it all over.
But is that really true? Let's say that Mitt Romney is the next president. Are congressional Republicans going to threaten to torpedo the economy if their demands aren't met? Of course not. First, because their priorities will be basically the same as his, and more important, because they know that undermining the economy is bad for the ruling party. But would Democrats do the same thing Republicans just did? Refuse to raise the ceiling unless they extract all kinds of concessions to move policy more in their preferred direction?
It's hard to see it. That's not because Democrats are incapable of playing hardball, it's just that when they do, it tends to be on a smaller scale. Holding a gun to the economy's head is something that requires a high tolerance for risk, an indifference to the suffering of ordinary people, and confidence that your opponents will cave before you will. Republicans have more of all three. So what we're likely to see is that when there's a Republican president, the debt ceiling will be raised, with some half-hearted attempts by progressive Democrats to get something in return, but when there's a Democratic president, we go through this whole ugly process again and again.
That is, unless Congress decides to just eliminate the debt ceiling once and for all. Having just had such a smashing success with their hostage-taking, however, Republican will never agree to that.
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