Yep, Republicans Plan to Use the Debt Ceiling for "Leverage"

It seems I was mistaken about the GOP’s stance toward raising the debt ceiling: Top Republicans won’t walk away from using the limit as leverage for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Here is what Mitch McConnell had to say on Meet the Press yesterday:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – who helped strike the fiscal-cliff deal with the Obama White House – didn’t disavow his 2011 comment that refusing to raise the debt ceiling is “a hostage that’s worth ransoming." McConnell told NBC’s Gregory yesterday, “What we’re saying here is the biggest problem confronting the country is our excessive spending. If we’re not going to deal with it now, when are we going to deal with it? And we’ve watched the government explode over the last four years. We’ve dealt with the revenue issue.”

Likewise, in the House, Republicans are pressing Speaker John Boehner to take a stand on the debt ceiling. Here’s Politico:

In a marked shift, Boehner allies are urging him — publicly and privately — to do something he never has before: be willing to shut down the government or default on the nation’s debt to extract compromises from the White House.

To reiterate a point from last week, it’s worth clarifying what Republicans mean when they commit to refusing to raise the debt ceiling: The United States would be unable to pay its full obligations as mandated by Congress, and would have to forgo payments to bondholders, employees, contractors, and anyone else who receives money from the federal government. Refusing to raise the limit is an act of astounding irresponsibility, and Republicans are threatening it unless President Obama implements policies that voters rejected at the polls two months ago.

It should be said that this isn’t a negotiation. If Obama does decide to support cuts to retirement programs, Republicans won’t have conceded anything other than their permission to allow the government to operate and pay its debts. In other words, when liberals describe the current scenario as a hostage situation, they aren’t exaggerating.