American Opinion: If Kevin McCarthy is serious about protecting the economy, he’d raise the debt ceiling

From the editorial: If McCarthy and other House leaders aren’t willing to endorse an increase, Biden must appeal to responsible Republicans in the House.

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at a news conference in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at a news conference in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

After he was elected speaker on the 15th ballot, Kevin McCarthy promised that the U.S. House under Republican leadership would protect the national economy, saying that the party was committed to “stop wasteful Washington spending, to lower the price of groceries, gas, cars, housing, and stop the rising national debt.”

American Opinion
American Opinion
Tribune graphic / Forum News Service
More American Opinion:
From the editorial: "Thousands of service members and U.S. contractors paid for the administration’s mistakes with their lives. Others will forever bear debilitating physical and emotional scars."
The Justice Department should ask Cannon to recuse herself, and if she refuses, it should appeal for reassignment of the case.
From the editorial: The right to marry whom you love should not be subject to the whims of an out-of-step conservative court or be left to a patchwork of state regulations. Congress must make the Respect for Marriage Act the law of the land.
From American Opinion editorial: Enter the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force, a nationwide effort that’s being made to investigate and take legal action against companies who bring foreign robocalls into the United States. The coalition includes attorneys general from all 50 states.

But there is more to sound economic stewardship than controlling future spending. The government must also pay the bills Congress has run up in the past, even if that means further borrowing. McCarthy and his fellow Republicans need to recognize that reality and stop politicizing the issue.

Last week the Treasury Department announced that the U.S. had hit a congressionally mandated limit on how much the federal government could borrow to satisfy its financial obligations — the so-called debt ceiling. Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen is taking “extraordinary measures” that are likely to forestall a crisis until June. But Congress needs quickly to raise the debt ceiling to make it clear that payments — including to Social Security recipients — will be made.

Unfortunately, House Republicans are essentially threatening to hold an increase in the debt limit hostage to concessions on future spending from the Biden administration and congressional Democrats. Never mind that Republicans don’t seem to agree on what sort of cuts they want to make, with some eyeing potentially politically perilous changes in Social Security and Medicare.

President Biden has insisted on a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling from the current $31.381 trillion, but he muddied his message by agreeing to meet McCarthy to discuss the debt ceiling among other subjects. McCarthy pointedly told Biden: “I accept your invitation to sit down and discuss a responsible debt ceiling increase to address irresponsible government spending” — seeming to assume that the two issues would be linked. (White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement saying that Biden continues to believe that “raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation; it is an obligation of this country and its leaders to avoid economic chaos.”)


Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, sometimes the Republican adult in the room, seems reluctant to play an active role in resolving the impasse. This week McConnell unhelpfully said that any solution to the debt ceiling crisis “will have to come out of the House” and that it was “entirely reasonable for the new speaker and his team to put spending reduction on the table.”

As a matter of raw politics, Republicans may think that they can use action on the debt ceiling to force the administration into a corner. There is some precedent for such a strategy. In 2011, the Obama administration agreed to a deal in which the ceiling was raised in connection with the adoption of legislation that placed some limits on spending.

But that doesn’t justify brinkmanship in 2023, when policymakers are striving to head off a recession. Nor is it clear that McCarthy, whose speakership depends on the support of extremists in his conference, is in a position to credibly negotiate with the administration on any arrangement that would link an increase in the debt ceiling to future spending cuts.

Republicans in the House are free to advocate policies designed to address what they consider wasteful spending. But politicizing the raising of the debt ceiling is dangerous. Ideally, the ceiling would be abolished. As we have said before, raising the federal debt limit should be a routine, obligatory act by Congress to discharge the government’s basic duty to pay its bills. But at a minimum Congress must raise the limit periodically to ensure that the government can borrow what it needs to meet its obligations.

If McCarthy and other House leaders aren’t willing to endorse an increase, Biden must appeal to responsible Republicans in the House — and there are some — to put nation above party.

More Opinion:
Editorial cartoonist Bruce Plante draws on the danger of China and Tik Tok.
From the commentary: If Stormy Daniels were all he had to worry about, Donald Trump would be in better shape than he is. Stay tuned.
From the commentary: Increasing the deposit insurance cap and focusing on small business transaction accounts could stabilize midsize banks, reduce more deposit transfers out of those institutions, and shore up confidence in the banking system. If there is enough support in Congress, the Biden administration should submit a request for rapid approval.
From the editorial: Laws intended to punish students who express gender nonconforming behavior have no place in California or elsewhere.
An editorial cartoon by Dave Granlund.
Small-town sporting triumphs pull a lot of people to big games. But the cows still need to get fed.
From the commentary: Take springtime, season of quickening, season of equal parts shadow and light — the very equation at its astronomical heart, the vernal equinox marking the fleeting moment when earth’s axis aligns directly with the sun, and the planet is neatly halved with equal allotments of light, and the sun shines squarely on the equator.
From the commentary: During these times of increasing polarization, community conversations in libraries continue to show us there is so much more that connects us than divides us.
From the editorial: "The same environmental reviews and permitting processes that have left the Iron Range with both successful mining and some of the cleanest water in the state can be trusted to continue ensuring responsible operations."
An editorial cartoon by Dave Granlund.

This American Opinion editorial is the view of the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. Send feedback to:

©2023 Los Angeles Times. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What To Read Next
Get Local