News Release

“Biden’s Debt Ceiling Cave”


JEFF HAUSER,, @revolvingdoorDC
In response to the emergence of the structure of a potential deal between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy, Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser issued the following statement on “Biden’s Debt Ceiling Cave and the Media’s Incompetent Coverage“:

“There are three aspects to the substance and coverage of this debate that have been infuriating.

“First, the notion that ‘modest cuts’ to spending are inconsequential. As we’ve sought to make clear in the past few weeks — indeed, the past several years — any deal is a disaster since most government departments and agencies are currently severely underfunded. ‘Non-defense discretionary spending’ is a bloodless way to refer to the agencies required to ensure clean air, safe food, safe workplaces, and protect Americans from all forms of corporate abuse. These agencies bore the brunt of the Obama-Boehner budgets, were thrashed further by the kleptocratic administration of President Trump, and have seen their purchasing power undercut by inflation. These agencies require redoubled investment rather than capricious cuts, and it is the role of the media to make the reality of the work these agencies do clear to the public that depends upon them.

“Second is the role of inflation. Spending in fiscal year 2023 was negotiated in calendar 2022, and the nominal amounts negotiated in the fall of 2022 are now going to become ceilings for spending throughout most of 2025 even as it’s likely that inflation will undercut the budget’s actual spending power by 7-10 percent. Additionally, the population of the United States is likely to increase by approximately 1 percent over that time. As such, ‘flat spending’ implies a further reduction in real government funding per person after a decade of Obama-Boehner austerity, followed by Trump’s assaults on the administrative state. This deal would be a catastrophe for government capacity, and coverage that ignores the role of inflation (hardly a low profile issue in 2023!) is wildly and indefensibly misguided.

“Third, the notion that the President was trapped under the gun of McCarthy is ridiculous. Because the debt ceiling is an unconstitutional, incoherent excuse for a law and because there is an active lawsuit from the National Association of Government Employees, Biden’s status as a hostage merely reflects an advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome. As many have argued (e.g., read here and here), Biden has a wide number of ways out from the debt ceiling and no legal way to implement it. As we have been emphasizing, the National Association of Government Employees lawsuit is sound, and indeed, has been all but endorsed by the President himself. President Biden and Attorney General Garland have no reason to defend the nonsense which is the debt ceiling, besides a vague sense of formality and tradition driven by elite political etiquette that Republicans have long since abandoned. The media needs to quit deferring to the debt ceiling’s political theater and engage more with the essentially uncontroverted legal experts pointing out that it cannot be implemented in a constitutional manner.”