Establishment Wants Debt Ceiling ‘Poison Pill’ in Hurricane Relief Bill

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Not only is Congress facing gale-force budgetary winds this month, but not even conservatives within Congress can agree on spending priorities when faced with high deficits, a debt ceiling, and a public demanding significant hurricane relief.

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Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts/Photo by The National Guard (CC)

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has informed Congress that the nation will hit its statutory debt ceiling no later than the end of this month – meaning that unless the debt ceiling is lifted, the nation will start defaulting on some of its debts. Various steps can be taken to ward off the worst of the defaults, but if they build up substantially, at some point the national economy would start to collapse.

Conservatives usually oppose hikes in the debt ceiling unless some sort of spending cuts or disciplines are paired with it. Congressional leaders, however, seem determined to go in the other direction: They plan to raise the debt ceiling in conjunction with providing relief for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and (in anticipation) Irma. The idea, of course, is to make it politically hard to vote against hiking the debt ceiling, because (so the theory goes) legislators will not want to be accused of opposing disaster relief.

A survey released Wednesday by respected pollster Morning Consult shows that a large plurality of the public believes disaster relief right now should be Congress’s “top priority,” with 62 percent saying relief should be provided even if it adds to the annual deficit and only 29 percent being happy with Congress’s response so far to the Harvey.

But this forced pairing of the debt ceiling issue with aid for hurricane victims has conservatives nearly apoplectic. A broad coalition of them released a letter Wednesday demanding that “major fiscal reforms” – in other words, more spending discipline, rather than the added spending on hurricane relief – accompany any hike in the debt ceiling.

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Mark Meadows/Fox News via YouTube

As for hurricane relief, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who chairs the solidly conservative House Freedom Caucus, had a column published in the Washington Examiner Wednesday demanding a “clean” bill on hurricane relief, tied neither to the debt ceiling nor to any other, non-disaster-related spending.

“The people of Texas have seen their lives turned upside down,” he wrote. “Their road ahead will be difficult enough without Washington, D.C., needlessly getting in the way. Congress, don’t play politics with recovery.”

PREVIOUSLY: FREEDOM CAUCUS: Don’t Attach Hurricane Relief Bill to Debt Ceiling Vote

But even Meadows’s position is fiscally less stringent than that of the powerful conservative campaign-financing group, the Club for Growth. It doesn’t want the “clean” disaster-relief bill advocated by Meadows; It demands that “offsetting” spending cuts accompany hurricane assistance.

“Disasters like Harvey may be unpredictable, but we know with 100 percent certainty that they will occur,” said Club President David McIntosh, a former House member from Indiana [bold-face type and Italics from the Club web site].  “Congress needs to stop using the ‘emergency’ label as an excuse for politicians to spend money without paying for it. All disaster relief should always be paid for. Period. 

McIntosh did agree with other conservatives that tying hurricane relief to the debt ceiling vote is “abhorrent.”

All of this activity comes as Congress also struggles to meet the fiscal-year deadline of Sept. 30 to pass Appropriations bills that finance the “discretionary” parts of the federal government (in other words, everything but automatic “entitlements” such as Social Security and Medicare, plus interest on the debt). As is often the case, Congress may instead pass some temporary stop-gap measures to avoid a “government shutdown,” but conservatives fear that every time Congress passes such a bill, it also either lards it up with local “pork” projects or avoids savings conservatives have worked to achieve.

(A centrist fiscal-watchdog group called the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a helpful explainer on how shutdowns and the debt limit work, at this link.)

Establishment Wants Debt Ceiling 'Poison Pill' in Hurricane Relief Bill

James Lankford/PHOTO: Facebook

In the midst of all this, another conservative, U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, has proposed a fundamental reform to the whole practice of setting and then regularly raising the government’s debt limit.

“As the debt ceiling is currently constructed,” he wrote, “it is nothing more than an arbitrary political goal that tends to produce more crisis theater than reform. Budgetary experts on the left and right have increasingly come to the conclusion that the debt limit no longer prevents, curbs or restrains debt.”

Lankford proposed replacing the current practice of pegging the debt ceiling to a particular number, and instead set it at a specific “date certain” – but make it easy to raise quickly “only if the [annual] deficit is going down.”

“For example, the debt limit could increase every two years with a signature from the president if the deficit has been reduced to a pre-set target. However, if the deficit has not reduced to the pre-set target in the past two years, Congress would be required to debate the issue and raise the debt limit [only by going] through regular order. A checkpoint with targets could create a stronger pattern of fiscal accountability.”

PREVIOUSLY: SEN. HATCH: Those Opposing More Debt ‘Don’t Deserve to Be Here’

Few others, though, seem to be thinking in such a long-term way. The House Wednesday morning did pass a fairly “clean” relief bill for Harvey, without tying it to the debt ceiling issue. Senate leaders, however, still say they are intent on tying the two issues together – with the biggest dispute being not about whether to tie the two together, but about whether the debt-ceiling hike should be a small or a large one.

It remains to be seen whether conservatives can stop this train.

After this article was first published, President Trump sided with Democratic leaders to support a short-term debt-ceiling-relief provision, tied to disaster relief. If passed, it will require yet another debt ceiling battle in just three months.

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  • Robalou01

    This is a disaster and Trump just bought into it. We couldn’t fund Harvey victims without holding the line on the debt? Bull crap! We can’t cut anything??

    • Joel Morris

      Every since Trump decided to run for POTUS I new that no one including the media could separate Trump from his core base except Trump himself. Today I was so disappointed in him for the first time and in a big way. Didn’t think it was possible. But here we are :(……

  • Daniel Klimov

    Can it be true, that the hurricanes are caused by use of the Haarp satellites?

    • nocbsfan

      Really caused by menopause with female astronauts doing space walks using a hand fan to keep cool

      • Richard Kujath

        Now she is on earth, it will stop.

        • nocbsfan

          Yeah now all these storms should go away

    • Gregg Parker

      short answer. Yes. But they’re ground based

      • Daniel Klimov

        what is ground based?

        • Gregg Parker

          HAARP antennas are antenna fields. Our first site was located in Alaska. There are three on the continent. The total of those operated by other countries was at 11 the last time I checked a number of months back. I wasn’t aware they can actually reproduce the same arrangement and power needed to operate them on a satellite..

    • SamanthaRLosada

      Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family!!!
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it

  • John

    The long term budget , taxes, wall, health care battles need to happen at some point in order to CUT spending, what a concept, and Pay down the debt , be still my heart. This will be emotional enough with all the B$ hyperbole from the left about the GOP stealing food from kids and pushing grandma off a ledge. It needs to be in s Hurricane free time, maybe if they were stuck together during a blizzard.

  • Phyllisrgarber

    In 1940, the federal debt was about $40 billion, and the debt hawks were calling it a “ticking time bomb.” (See:

    Every year thereafter, the debt hawks have warned about impending doom unless the debt is reduced.

    Today, the debt has grown to $14 TRILLION — an astounding 350 times larger — and the “time bomb” still is ticking, and the debt hawks still are warning — and none of their warnings have come true.

    If you belonged to a sect in which the leader, every year for the past 77 years, told you to give away all your possessions and to march up the mountain to await the end of the world — and every year the world did not end, but you had given away all your possessions — at what point would you decide the leader did not know what he was talking about?

    How long would it take you to wake up to the fact that you were being conned by the leader?

    The federal debt is no threat. It is not paid off by taxpayers. The government could pay off the entire debt tomorrow, if it wished.


    Time to understand a little economics folks, or you can allow yourself to be conned for another 75 years.

    • NCnative

      Are you on drugs? The debt is over twenty trillion dollars owed to other countries, not just to American citizens. The US can not just wipe the debt away as ” with a cloth.” It exists as an IOU to other nations that are now struggling to pay their own bills, and legally can force the US to repay, or default. Giving other nations the right to claim ownership over parts of America is not a con, but a real debt. Your children, your children’s children can be legally forced from their homes and land and have it given as property rights to other nations to do with as they seem fit. What America owes America is even more extreme, to the tune of over one hundred trillion dollars. It can never be repaid, it can never be lessened, it can only add to the ever increasing weight of debt forced upon each and every citizen in this nation. Anything other than that is a lie, told only by fools that do not want to accept their failure as a person for refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

      • Phyllisrgarber

        Federal finances are nothing like personal finances.

        When you “lend” to the federal government, you instruct your bank to transfer dollars from your checking account to your T-security account at the Federal Reserve Bank. It’s just a bank deposit.

        The federal “debt” is the total of those T-security accounts.

        To pay off the “debt” the federal government merely transfers dollars from T-security accounts back to the checking accounts of the lenders. This is identical with your bank transferring dollars from your savings account back to your checking account. No new dollars needed.

        The federal government could pay off the entire “debt” tomorrow, simply by transferring the dollars that exist in those T-security accounts, back to the creditors’ accounts.

        You and your children do not owe the government’s debt. You and your children never have, and never will, be asked to pay the government’s debt.

        For more than 70 years, you have been conned with the same story, and it never changes. And you never catch on.

        When was the last time the government asked you to pay its debt? When has any foreign “lender” made a claim against the federal government. How many more years will it take before you realize federal debt is nothing like personal debt.

        Federal debt is entirely different from personal debt, business debt, or state and local government debt. It shouldn’t even be called “debt.” It should be called “deposits.”

        The U.S. federal government actually has no need to borrow. It creates dollars ad hoc, every time it pays a bill.


        You, your state, your county, your city, and your business do not have a sovereign currency. The federal government does. It creates dollars by pressing computer keys.

        Learn the difference between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty.

    • nocbsfan

      Phyllis I hope you are joking.

  • Mike

    if the debt is so.important why are tax cuts on the table? tax cuts throughout our history have never paid for themselves and have always added to the national debt.

  • Gregg Parker

    I don’t see the problem here. They HAVE NO CHOICE any way on either vote…. To give some breathing room for a few months while we as a nation focus on disaster relief and rebuilding isn’t so bad. What good is spending the reserves for disaster response down to nothing and then shutting the government down right on the heals of depleting the funds? A clean bill would be fine as long as raising the ceiling was a foregone conclusion. Politics sucks but it’s their only game and they love to play power broker and savior. Approve the money and posture later…

  • John

    Common sense about debt. How can I put 10 male fish in a barrel, and have someone else fish 11 out of the same barrel? Simple! Get someone else to play the same game, then fish one of his out. The problem is that there are now only 9 in the barrel, and he owes 11. That’s how our economy works. Banks loan all money into the economy, but no one creates new money to pay the interest charge. Treasury Bills are sold to create new money, again at interest. The money gained by the government is used to “stimulate” the economy, so individuals can pay off their loans, with interest. This monopoly has gone on for a hundred years since the formation of the federal reserve. Now we taxpayers have to pay interest thru our taxes to these owners of Treasury Bills. Obamacare wasn’t the biggest mistake made by the federal government, the federal reserve was. Remember, no one ever creates new money, like the producers of silver and gold did when we had a commodity based monetary system. No one can ever get out of debt by paying their interest charge with more borrowed money! Neither can our federal government. This 100 year mistake must be corrected, or a total collapse will follow!

    • Richard Kujath

      Actually, the gov’mint can and does create “new money,” but the trick is not to make too much and spark inflation. Simply put, John no pic, “Wrong!”