WASHINGTON – With high-level talks underway between President Obama and Congressional leaders to raise the Treasury Department’s debt ceiling before an Aug. 2 deadline, GOP Rep.- and presidential candidate – Michele Bachmann sought to turn the debate in her preferred direction, declaring that the debt ceiling should never be raised.
Bachmann’s position complicates an already delicate situation on Capitol Hill.
Republican leaders now reluctantly concede that a debt limit increase is a necessity even as many members of the Republican caucus reject the idea of raising the debt ceiling and the potentially disastrous consequences that economists and business leaders warn could follow a failure to increase Treasury’s borrowing authority.
Members of Congress, staffers and reporters alike were plunged into confusion yesterday after the Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, offered what he described as a “Plan B” to end the debt ceiling debate and authorize the Treasury to continue borrowing (you can read the details of McConnell’s baroque plan here).
In a sign of that confusion, Bachmann, whose press operation often quickly puts out press releases about major news events, was silent on the proposal until this morning’s press conference to promote a bill that would prioritize paying interest on the national debt and paying service members’ salaries in the event of a default.
When asked if she supported McConnell’s plan, which would enable Republicans to vote no on raising the debt ceiling while allowing an increase to take place, Bachmann made it clear she wouldn’t vote for anything that allowed a debt increase to pass.
“I’m no on raising the debt ceiling right now,” Bachmann said. “I’ve seen a lot of smoke and mirrors in the time that I’ve been here.”
Bachmann was joined on stage by tea party allies Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX). About 50 Republican members of the House belong to the tea party caucus and many, like Bachmann, King and Gohmert, view the debt ceiling debate as their opportunity to make a mark on Washington by drastically cutting federal spending.
That complicates the math for House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who need 218 votes from a caucus of 240 members.
All three House members on stage downplayed the consequences of raising the debt limit before the Aug. 2 deadline, when the Treasury Department says it will run out of cash.
Bachmann called the idea of a default after that date, “a misnomer” because federal tax revenues would continue to exceed interest payments on the debt so in her view, no default would take place. That’s a claim Bachmann has repeated before and MPR’s Poligraph declared it misleading in part because other federal obligations, such as Social Security payments, Medicare reimbursements and discretionary spending would have to be cut or delayed.
One reporter asked Bachmann who would not be paid if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised. Bachmann evaded the question, saying only that it was important that “full faith and credit of the United States” should not be impaired and denouncing President Obama’s warning last night that Social Security checks might not go out on time in the case of a default.
“The real world is telling all of the politicians, get your act together, stop being political, stop playing with us, we’re not pawns in your game,” said Bachmann, who also mentioned her presidential campaign stops in Iowa this week and her determination to make President Obama a one term president.