Comrade wrote: Were Congress to take no action, there would be a government shutdown like we had back in 95 or 96.
It's a little bit different this time. In 95/96, the issue was just that we'd reached the end of the year, Congress didn't pass a new budget, and it didn't pass a "continuing resolution" (basically, a mini-budget that says "everybody keep doing what they're doing now while we try to get this straightened out.") So without a budget, there was no authorization for the government to spend money, and the government shut down.
That's a bit different from this situation. In this case, there's still a budget in operation (well, a CR) and that budget is supposed to pay for all sorts of commitments. The president is not legally allowed to refuse to pay bills that Congress has already run up. President Obama might think that, say, purchasing a hundred new Humvees is a waste of money or whatever, but Congress ordered them and they've already been delivered and now the bill is due.
But a different law (the debt limit) says that the President can't add to the national debt. If the president has to
pay the bills, and can't
raise taxes, it's mathematically necessary to add to the national debt (unless one adopts a gimmick like the platinum coin thing).
So ... the 95/96 government shutdown was about the government stopping spending because its budget had expired. This February crisis is about the government refusing to pay bills that it's already incurred.
It's like the difference between saying "I'm not going to order steak because I don't have enough money"
versus "I'm not going to pay for this steak I've ordered because I don't want to add to my credit card debt."
The first one might or might not be a good idea, but the second one is fundamentally immoral.
Now ... just to complicate things ... in addition to the wholly artificial "crisis" of the debt ceiling (which will probably hit in February) there's also the separate problem of the need for a new budget (in March? I think). If Congress doesn't pass a new budget, and doesn't pass a "Continuing Resolution", then the government will shut down, for the same reasons it did in the 1990s.
That would be bad, but it wouldn't be as awful as the government being unable to pay its existing obligations for a purely artificial reason. Some people have suggested that the Republicans could avoid a PR disaster by making their stand on the budget (i.e., threatening to shut down the government) instead of on the more extreme debt-ceiling issue (i.e., threatening to default on the government's already-existing obligations).
IF we don't want this, (and I don't think we do) then all of us should petition Congress to do their jobs. I mean really lean on those idiots.
Yes. This really is a national embarrassment. Congress needs to let the president pay the bills it's already run up, and then pass a budget or CR to keep the government operating.