The debt-ceiling fight did not have to go down like this. Along the way, any number of political actors, from the president to congressional Democrats, had the ability to defuse the bomb with which Republicans held the nation's creditworthiness hostage. Here are five missed chances to change the dynamic.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., leaders of "The Gang of Six"
The debate over raising the nation's debt ceiling has strayed into dangerous territory. After talks broke down last Friday between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on a "grand bargain" to cut budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade, both Republicans and Democrats rushed to blame the opposing side.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has concocted an elaborate scheme that would allow President Barack Obama a clean shot at raising the debt limit, in three installments, over the next year and a half. Unlike his fellow Republicans, McConnell will not use the debt-ceiling fight to force cuts in discretionary spending or safety-net programs. Instead, he focuses on his chief preoccupation: winning elections for the GOP.
Last week, Ben Bernanke delivered a speech in which he agreed that the government should reduce the deficit. However, he cautioned, "a sharp fiscal consolidation focused on the very near term could be self-defeating if it were to undercut the still-fragile recovery."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Vice President Joe Biden at talks on a budget deal on Thursday, May 5, 2011, at Blair House in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Democrat-controlled Senate has yet to vote on a 2012 budget that would serve as a counterpoint to the Medicare-slashing Paul Ryan plan that passed the House. When Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad explained on May 19 why he wasn't taking a budget proposal to the Senate floor, he may have said too much.