The Big Lie being told by President Barack Obama, Treasury Secretary Jack “Loop-de” Lew, and Democrats in general is that Republicans are pushing for a default on the national debt. Lew said it again on Sunday’s edition of Fox News Sunday, telling host Chris Wallace “the question of threatening to cause a default of the United States–not until 2011 did it become a positive agenda,” he said, claiming Republicans had backed default.
It is a lie that Lew, one of the villains of the 2011 debt crisis (he “just knows how to say no,” House Speaker John Boehner complained), has told before, but never quite so colorfully as to claim it was a positive, i.e. deliberate and explicit, agenda item for Republicans. He obviously is trying to convince the public that the GOP still holds that view today–though it never did in the first place, not in 2011 and not in 2013.
What some Republicans said in 2011 was that passing the Aug. 2, 2011 debt ceiling deadline without a deal would not mean default because the Treasury could still pay the U.S. government’s principal, interest, and contractual obligations. It might not be able to pay for some government spending, but that would not violate the full faith and credit of the United States. It would just force the government to prioritize.
In 2013, Republicans have given that argument legislative teeth with the Full Faith and Credit Act, also known as McClintock-Toomey, after the bill’s respective sponsors in the House and Senate. The Act would require the Treasury to spend on debt obligations to prevent the country from going into default in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised. That is precisely why Senate Democrats are blocking it; they want the threat of default.
By the Democrats’ own standards, many of the alternatives they have floated–from the president raising the debt ceiling unilaterally, to the government minting a $1 trillion coin–would also constitute a form of default, since the first would require the president to break the law and the second would amount to a devaluation of the dollar on a massive scale, damaging creditors to help the world’s biggest debtor manage its problems.
The fact is that Republicans haven’t called for default. If they had done so, Democrats would be able to name those who had. In classic Alinsky fashion, used to devastating effect against Todd Akin last year, they would seize on one Republican who had advocated default, even in jest or error, and elevate those remarks to tarnish the entire party. But they haven’t, because no Republican has taken that position. And none will.