I had missed this Kevin Drum post from last month (Note to self: Never miss a Kevin Drum post!) and the WashPo article it refers to.
The Federal Government will hit the debt ceiling sometime this fall, and Democrats need to consider whether to pass a “clean” increase or instead to hold it hostage to various things we want. Kevin is (tentatively) on the side of adhering to the norm of not using the threat of national insolvency as a political lever.
I might agree, if such a norm existed. But Republicans smashed it all to pieces when Obama was President, so respecting it now looks too much like unilateral disarmament.
It seems to me the right question is: What should Democrats in the House demand as the price of passing a “must-pass” bill? My answer would be: Demand everything, including the kitchen sink, and negotiate from there, with a few “must-have” demands.
Possible demands can be roughly sorted into two bins; for each bin I’ve provided possible examples.
- Procedural/rule-of-law/democracy items
- Compliance with all Congressional subpoenas
- Production of Trump’s tax returns
- A Special Counsel to inquire into violations of the Emoluments clauses
- Defensive measures against foreign interference in U.S. elections, including a stronger FARA
- A new Voting Rights Act, with a standard for the maximum waiting time at the polls and an explicit ban on using criminal justice financial obligations to deny the right to vote
- An explicit ban on partisan gerrymandering in Congressional elections (clearly within one of Congress’s enumerated powers and thus fairly bullet-proof in court)
- Taking the citizenship question off the 2020 Census
- Substantive policy items
- Card check
- $15 minimum wage
- Banning family separation at the border
- Disaster relief including California and Puerto Rico
- More money for Head Start
- Fiscal incentives for states to adopt Medicaid expansion
- Reversal of the Trump tax breaks for returns with more than $1M in annual income
- A down payment on college debt relief
- Medicare buy-in
- More money for the opioid crisis
- A program to reverse the rise in maternal and infant mortality
- [Fill in the blank] about women’s pay equity
- [Fill in the blank] about global warming/climate change
- Ending support for Saudi Arabian warmaking in Yemen
- Rural broadband
- Postal banking in any county with more than x% of households unbanked
- Arbitration reforms to avoid people’s being required to sign their rights away
I don’t see any harm in making the list fairly comprehensive, with appeals to a variety of interests and opinions. Then the question is what to absolutely hold out for.
Trump’s tax returns are the obvious candidate from the RoL list, just because he’d have very limited public sympathy if he tanked the economy to protect himself from corruption charges. But forbidding the Executive from spending any money to challenge Congressional subpoenas in court, and providing stiff statutory penalties both on an individual level and via withholding appropriated funds for non-compliance, would certainly be high on the list. From the substantive-policy column, I’d be tempted to hold out for card check, since I agree with Kevin that union power is the key both to reversing the increase in income inequality and in deciding who wins elections. But that’s probably a bridge too far: the Republicans would almost certainly prefer to crash the country’s credit than give working people a fair break. So pick whichever two or three of the rest poll best.
This can’t be done overnight, so both the think tanks and the committees need to get to work ASAP on putting the list together and writing the necessary legislative language.