Federal debt increase wasn't what Americans had in mind when they voted GOP
© Greg Nash

America’s 240-year experiment in self-governance is one month away from a critical test. Are voters’ choices at the ballot box transformed into policy, or is there actually no relation between winning elections and implementing policy? We’ll soon see.

Upon Congress’s return next week, two immediate issueof concern will be the debt ceiling and a government funding bill. Both will have to be addressed by the end of September. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' On The Money: Trump makes a late pitch on the economy | US economy records record GDP gains after historic COVID-19 drop | Pelosi eyes big COVID-19 deal in lame duck Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide MORE has said there is “zero chance” Congress will not approve an increase to the debt ceiling, and word is already leaking from congressional leadership offices that government funding will be handled with a short-term Continuing Resolution that (yet again) kicks the can down the road for three or four months.

In fact, reports indicate the outlines of a deal already in the works: a $2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, with no future spending reductions or spending reforms – the so-called “clean” debt ceiling increase – combined with a three-month Continuing Resolution, with no funding for President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE’s border wall. 

ADVERTISEMENT
That deal, if it happenswill be a huge blow to conservatives’ expectations. And it will be a direct repudiation of voters’ wishes – a recent poll showed that American voters, by 57-20 percent, reject a hike in the debt ceiling.

 

Conservatives can be forgiven for being taken aback by the suggestion of a clean debt ceiling increaseThis year’s exercise feels a lot more like GOP capitulation than even the usual concessions conservatives are expected to make.

Case in point: back in 2011, when the Democrats controlled the White House and the Senate, conservatives managed to get a deal that reduced future spending by $2.1 trillion in exchange for raising the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion. So, even with President Obama in the White House and Democrats then in control of the Senate, conservatives got a dollar-for-dollar match between the debt ceiling increase and the spending reduction.

But now, with the GOP in control of the House, Senate, and the White House, conservatives are expected to agree to a debt ceiling increase without any spending reductions or reforms. This is what Republican control of Washington yields? This is, most assuredly, not what Republican voters had in mind when they gave Republicans control of House, Senate, and the White House.

And, while Americans acutely understand the fiscal consequences of this debt ceiling discussion’s likely outcome, we also understand that there are even more dire consequences because of the way this debate has unfolded – without any regard for what we want.

Last November’s elections should have been a wake-up call to the political class in Washington. Donald Trump’s stunning victory was Americas demand for an end to business as usual in Washington. The GOP maintained its majorities in both chambers of Congress because Republicans promised to be the responsible adults in Washington.

But that is not what we see happening in Washington today.

If this deal goes through as reported, it will mean that elections have no consequences. This debt ceiling/C.R.“deal” means that there is a total divorce between the consent of the governed (as expressed through election results) and the policies enacted by our elected leaders.

This deal will be, therefore, a fundamental assault on the core principles that underlie our experiment in self-governance.

The GOP’s reckless approach to this debt ceiling discussion is more than a simple abandonment of fiscal responsibility and financial accountability (although, be assured, it is certainly that); it’s also an outright rejection of the concept of our elected leaders’ accountability to the voters who put them there.

When American voters are promised fiscal discipline and restraint and vote for that vision, but then are forced to accept the exact opposite, the underlying problem is far more serious than a fiscal matter.

We are witnessing the wholesale rejection of one of the most fundamental ideas of the American experiment in self-governance – to wit, the idea that citizens could direct (through elections, chiefly) the decisions of our elected officials.

Republicans, as fluent in political double-speak as their Democrat colleagues, are busy explaining away the debt ceiling increase as the responsible thing to doAmericans know better.

We can walk away from the fiscal cliff. It will require great resolve and fiscal discipline, but it is possible. What remains less clear, however, is whether America can walk back from this new chapter in American history, in which the will of the American people is no longer a driving force shaping policy.

Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.