Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, won a prominent place in the weekend news cycle when he made pointed statements last Friday about Medicare, taxes, and what it would take for him to support an increase in the debt ceiling.
He chose his words carefully. Amid blustery talking points, McConnell painstakingly did not say that Republicans would refuse to increase the debt limit. Ultimately, the only threat he issued was about his own individual vote -- not about what Republicans will do in general.
Democrats would do well to consider McConnell's words just as carefully as he did before making massive concessions to Republican "demands."
Failure to increase the debt ceiling would force the United States into default and would be like shooting a gun at the economy. JP Morgan has reported that a U.S. default would likely reduce GDP by half of a percent and cause massive sell offs in financial markets. That would mean new rounds of job losses, bank failures, foreclosures, and lost retirement savings.
In order for blackmail, which is what the Republican threat to force the government into default is, to be effective the threat has to be credible. Some Republicans are downplaying the economic devastation to increase the credibility of the threat, but most of them know better. There is absolutely no chance at all that Republicans will block the debt ceiling increase. None.
Because the threat is not credible, the only value it has is the value Democrats choose to give it. If they agree with the Republican proposals and want their own political cover, they will treat the threat as credible. They will "save America" from the dastardly Republicans. If they have more responsible strategies they will call the bluff. They hold all the cards.
Senator McConnell knows this, which is why he is going to pains to bluster a lot but not over-commit his Party.
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