Today in Hostage Taking

At some point this year, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling, as well as deal with a host of out-standing budget issues. But rather then try to discuss them in good faith—free of a manufactured crisis—Republicans have all but announced their decision to take some kind of legislative hostage, as soon as they can find one. Here’s Lori Montogomery, reporting for The Washington Post:

Democrats are urging Republicans to initiate talks well before the next deadline and at last resolve the long-standing dispute over whether to tame the debt solely by cutting spending, as Republicans demand, or also by raising taxes on the wealthy, as Obama insists….But senior Senate Republicans, including several who recently dined with Obama and huddled with administration officials, conceded that it may be tough to bring their colleagues to the table too far ahead of the debt-ceiling deadline….“We need to realize this debt ceiling is out there. It’s inevitable. It’s coming. And [the later deadline] should not relieve pressure,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. But “sometimes we don’t want to act until a gun is at our heads.”

And here’s The Hill with a similar take on how Republicans are approach budget negotiations:

Some Republicans say that framework is insufficient and that they’ll need spending cuts as well as tax reform to raise the debt ceiling. Others in the conference say that only the full enactment of tax reform will be enough to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and that incremental progress toward completing tax reform is not enough. 

Conservatives in the GOP conference say they are evaluating debt-ceiling proposals against a deal they struck with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants during the annual retreat in January. That deal says increases in the debt ceiling will only come about once debt-reducing laws are enacted, they said.

In other words, the current GOP plan is to refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless it receives some concessions in the form of entitlement cuts—presumably the ones it rejected earlier this year. The most depressing thing about this, however, isn’t that it’s happening, it’s that both The Hill and the Post are treating it as a routine move, and not the latest in an extraordinary violation of political norms.

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