Scott Tibbs

A reality check on the debt limit deal

By Scott Tibbs, June 14, 2023

There is a lot of grumbling on the Right about the debt ceiling deal that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Biden, and especially at Republicans who voted for it. Is every Republican who voted for the debt ceiling deal a "squish" or an "establishment" Republican? Should all of them be replaced by a more fiscally conservative alternative?


This is a bad deal that leaves entitlement spending untouched and places small limits on non-military discretionary spending. We are headed toward fiscal insolvency with virtually no attempt to do anything about it until we actually have an emergency. Should the deal have been better? Yes. But we have a political reality that limits what Republicans can do. We have a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President. One would hope that if Republicans had a larger majority in the House and a solid majority in the Senate, they could have worked with President Biden to get more spending cuts and move toward a balanced budget, as Newt Gingrich did with Bill Clinton in the 1990's.

But we cannot play on the field we wish we had. We have to play on the field we actually do have. There was a hard limit on what concessions Speaker McCarthy could extract from a President who just a few weeks earlier was vowing not to negotiate at all. In fact, McCarthy pointed out that progressive stalwarts such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders voted against the debt limit deal because of the concessions Republicans managed to get.

Of course, The Bulwark dishonestly accused McCarthy of "negative partisanship" and "tribalism" in its podcast. McCarthy said it was a good deal only because AOC and Sanders voted no, right? But The Bulwark undercut its own argument by mentioning that McCarthy cited specific policy accomplishments as the reasons AOC and Sanders voted no. This was not negative partisanship. It was a policy argument.

So where do we go from here, to attempt to regain some fiscal sanity? The answer is not primary challenges against Republicans who voted for the debt ceiling deal. Some good Republicans voted for it. The answer is to expand the GOP majority in the House, win the Senate, and win the White House. This also means nominating candidates who can win, not people who are obsessed with the 2020 election and who must constantly praise Donald Trump's assertions about the election he lost. Unless we start winning elections with solid fiscal and social conservatives not beholden to conspiracy theories about 2020, we will never get our fiscal house in order.

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