The bills must get paid

The payment of the debt must not lead to an expensive crisis

The payment of the national debt is casting a shadow over the inauguration of President Obama’s second term. There is not much time to celebrate that occasion.

In the past, raising the debt ceiling so that the government was able to pay its creditors for goods and services was never controversial. It means paying expenses that Congress has already authorized.

That is why the idea circulating among the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives is ironic. They are talking about using the threat of a default to pressure the White House in order to obtain budget cuts. Wanting to repeat what happened two years ago, when this same negotiation led to an interest rate increase on the U.S. debt, is irresponsible. The threat of a default—similar to the current one—caused distrust in the market, generating the opposite effect of increasing the debt more than what was intended in the beginning.

On the other hand, it is hypocritical that the lower chamber is the one that came up with the initiative of not paying the bills, when its lawmakers initiated and authorized the expenses. That is one of their constitutional responsibilities.

Moreover, if we count from the time President Clinton left the White House with a balanced budget until today, Republicans have led the House of Representatives for 12 years versus six years for the Democrats. The GOP’s zeal for fiscal responsibility in the House only appears when there is a Democrat in the White House.

On December 31, the federal government reached its limit of $16.4 trillion. Ever since, the Treasury has used emergency measures to extend the deadline and prevent a default, until somewhere between February 15 and March 1.

That is the deadline to authorize the payment of bills. The United States cannot be a country in default. We hope we do not have to go through the same costly process as two years ago.