Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, sent a letter Friday to Senate colleagues calling on Republicans to drop any potential brinksmanship over raising the debt ceiling next month.
Murray also re-released a memo issued last year, in the midst of the last frantic fiscal fights over raising the debt ceiling and over the government shutdown.
In the memo, Murray wrote that the end game is predictable — it always ends with a debt-ceiling increase, no matter how serious the perceived threat.
“As you all know, they have tried this before, and the bottom line is the story always ends with a debt-ceiling increase,” Murray wrote.
Murray’s new letter predicts that Republicans will cave again, despite House Speaker John Boehner’s insistence that a “clean” debt-limit increase cannot pass the House.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Bloomberg on Friday that there’s very little appetite to “test” a fight over the debt limit. But Republicans are preparing to try to extract some policy concessions — including, possibly, expanded offshore energy production, slight changes to the Affordable Care Act, and/or approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
In her letter, Murray repeats that Democrats will “not negotiate over whether or not the United States of America should pay its bills.”
Murray and Democrats are betting, again, that Republicans will cease their demands and join Democrats in passing a “clean” debt-ceiling increase. It worked in October, when Republicans in the House eventually joined with Democrats to vote for the bill that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Wednesday that the nation’s borrowing limit will need to be raised by the end of February, and he would prefer an increase even sooner.
Here’s Murray’s full letter:
Last fall, we released a memo that called on our Republican colleagues to end their brinkmanship and join Democrats in passing clean debt ceiling legislation to ensure the United States could continue to pay its bills — including payments to millions of workers, seniors, and members of the military — and avoid hurting the economic recovery with self-inflicted uncertainty.
We believed that Republicans knew they could not afford to force an unprecedented default, and that they would ultimately join us to prevent one with no strings attached. While we would have preferred to remove the threat of default well in advance of the deadline so that the uncertainty did not hurt the economy, we were glad that Republicans finally did, for the second time in a year, give up their demands and allow Congress to suspend the debt ceiling so the federal government could pay its bills and we could avoid a self-inflicted economic catastrophe.
We were then able to move away from the cycle of governing by crisis and begin the bipartisan budget conference Democrats had pursued since the spring. Despite conventional wisdom and some scepticism, the budget conference resulted in a compromise agreement to roll back some harmful cuts to education, infrastructure, medical research and national security, and to take the possibility of another government shutdown off the table.
As we approach the date when we will need to act to avoid default again, Democrats will take the same responsible approach we laid out in the memo below. We will not negotiate over whether or not the United States of America should pay its bills. And once again, before they get any further down this damaging path, we call on our Republican colleagues to not play politics with our economic recovery.
Recent data from the Congressional Budget Office show that near-term budget deficits have improved significantly, falling by more than a third in the first three months of fiscal year 2014. But there is much more we need to do to tackle our long-term deficits responsibly, and crucially, to continue getting more Americans back to work and lay a foundation for broader economic growth in the future.
Democrats are ready and willing to work with Republicans on these and many other challenges. But as we have repeatedly shown, attempts to avoid compromise by putting the full faith and credit of the United States on the line will not succeed. The only way we can get anything done in a divided government is through compromise, not threats or hostage-taking.
House Republicans are meeting next week to discuss their agenda for the next year. We hope that coming out of this meeting, they will agree to build on the bipartisan budget work done so far, join Democrats in passing a clean debt ceiling bill, and focus on the real long and short-term challenges facing the families and communities we serve.
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