The Republican Party’s shutdown drama in Washington will cost us dearly, even if Congress averts a strike

(J Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The Republican Party’s shutdown drama in Washington will cost us dearly, even if Congress averts a strike

On Ed

Jackie Calmes

November 16, 2023

Are you tired of Congress experiencing repeated partisan deadlock every time a major budget deadline approaches, like this week? Are you tired of breathless reporting about impending government shutdowns or debt defaults, knowing that the partisans (almost) always reach a compromise, as they did on Tuesday?

Or have you now logged out?

Here’s why you should pay attention: These senseless, self-inflicted crises have cost us taxpayers a lot of money in higher interest rates on American debt.

even when

Congress succeeds in preventing a government shutdown or bankruptcy. Moreover, they have taken an incalculable toll on public confidence in government.

And know that this irresponsibility is not an issue on either side. Democrats and Republicans are not equally to blame. More than a quarter of a century ago, it was Republicans who provoked the confrontations, imposing conditions that could not in themselves become law, both in financing the government and raising the national debt limit so that the Treasury can continue to borrow to pay the debt obligations. accounts.

In fact, Republicans have made it routine that the budget is under pressure when a Democrat is in the White House. They were secretly complicit as the federal debt grew by nearly $8 trillion over time

under former president

the Trump administration.

The serial tax dramas have real consequences. The last one came

just last



Moody’s Investors Service announced that it had changed its outlook for U.S. government debt from negative to stable, partly due to continued political polarization.

The company’s statement did not explicitly mention Republicans; Private sector analysts stick to politically neutral prose, not least to avoid alienating clients. But in detailing the congressional dysfunction that sees it as both an economic and political problem, Moodys gave four examples: renewed debt restraint, the first impeachment of a House Speaker in U.S. history, the continued Congress’s inability to select a new Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the increased threat of another partial government shutdown.

These examples only describe the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

Tuesday the latest shutdown threat


temporarily suspended. Novice House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana couldn’t resolve Republicans’ infighting over how much to cut spending and other nonstarter demands, including anti-abortion add-ons. He turned to Democrats for enough votes to pass an emergency funding bill that would simply extend current spending levels.

keeping the government open and

Congress buys the time until February to finally reach an agreement for this budget year.

So the story is not over yet. Although Moody’s lowered its outlook for U.S. debt, it maintained the country’s triple-A rating, the highest possible. If Congress makes another crack at the funding process in the new year, Moody’s is ready to nullify that too.

That, in turn, could push countries’ creditors, who buy government bonds and banknotes, to demand governments pay higher interest rates.

which alone



to the annual deficit


the bill that we as taxpayers are ultimately responsible for.

Two rating agencies have already downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+. Fitch Ratings did so in August, shortly after Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to raise the debt limit without unrealistically deep cuts. The last-minute debt deal that now-ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with President Biden enraged far-right Republicans and marked the beginning of his end.

Fitch’s reasoning predicted Moody’s. The analysis indicated a steady deterioration in governance standards over the past two decades. In other words, dysfunction is nothing new; it’s only gotten worse in the MAGA era. Again, Fitch did not specifically quote Republicans, but the timeline makes it clear who he was accusing.

Fitch had warned months earlier that the demise of the debt ceiling and continued doubts about the 2020 presidential election were worrying signs. When Fitch ultimately downgraded the credit rating, Fitch reportedly told Biden administration officials that the January 6, 2021, insurrection was a factor. According to the Associated Press, Fitch concluded that government stability deteriorated between 2018 and 2021 and then increased when Biden succeeded Trump. But then Republicans took over the House of Representatives this year.

Fitch’s credit rating downgrade was only the second time in the country’s history that the U.S. credit rating has been downgraded. The first was after A 2011 debt limit crisis, when Standard & Poors downgraded the AAA rating


It never recovered the top rating.

There is a parallel between Congress’s budget crisis


2011 and 2023: Those years came after Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections and decided to shake things up under a Democratic president. In 2011, it was the tea party takeover. Now we have the MAGA house.

Republicans once claimed the descriptor “fiscally conservative.” But in my decades of covering fiscal policy, I’ve seen them squander that brand


Pushing for excessive spending cuts to reduce deficits while resisting them


tax increases, threatened shutdowns and near-bankruptcies are not the tactics of fiscal conservatives.

We are now tired of brinkmanship. If only the Republicans were too.



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