At yesterday’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked press secretary Jen Psaki about how Democrats will overcome Republican tactics and raise the debt ceiling before it’s too late. It was a subject she seemed eager to address:
“… Republicans are playing politics with an economic catastrophe, and they’re treating a calamity for working families like a D.C. game. There are huge impacts here…. An instant recession, 6 million jobs lost, $15 trillion in savings wiped out, Social Security checks and payments to our troops blocked — those are real impacts. Republicans in Congress are treating this like a game. Let me give you some examples. Senator Rick Scott — and this is a real quote, I will note: ‘This is going to be a ball. I’m going to have so much fun.’ … Senator Kevin Kramer: ‘It’s sort of fun to watch.'”
As is always the case, the context matters. Florida Sen. Rick Scott, for example, told Politico last week how excited he was by the convergence of multiple political standoffs — including the debt ceiling — each of which were created by his party’s maximalist partisan tactics. “This is gonna be a ball,” the Republican senator was quoted saying. “I’m going to have so much fun.”
A few days later, North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer told The Daily Beast, in reference to the crises, “I’m confident they’ll figure it out. Either that, or they’ll implode.” The GOP senator added, “Right now, I have to admit, while I don’t generally relish in other people’s misery, it’s sort of fun to watch their chaos.”
Or put another way, when the White House press secretary accused these Republicans of treating serious governmental challenges — problems the GOP imposed on the nation for no good reason — “like a game,” she had some compelling real-world examples to bolster the point.
Indeed, Psaki’s rhetoric was useful in framing the circumstances accurately. Too often, political observers see the debt-ceiling crisis or threat of a government shutdown as the latest in a series of political “disputes” between Democrats and Republicans. Americans have to endure another “standoff” between competing partisans, the argument goes.
But just below the surface is a story that’s far more serious. If the GOP had succeeded in creating yet another government shutdown, the effects would’ve been severe. If Republicans refuse to allow Congress to extend the debt ceiling, the effects would be economically catastrophic.
To hear Scott tell it, this is all quite entertaining. To hear Cramer tell it, crises like these will cause Democrats to “implode” as Democrats endure “chaos.”
In reality, the chaos and implosion would be felt by all of us, not just the party Cramer and his cohorts want to undermine.