It’s what doesn’t happen on Capitol Hill that often pleases us the most, and that’s true about the decision of the Republican leadership in the U.S. House to avoid a pointless and economically damaging debate on raising the government’s debt limit.
The issue was a matter of heartburn among Republicans because a minority of GOP members stood opposed to a “clean” extension of the debt limit. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made a good legislative call that is good politics, not wanting to tie restrictions to the debt limit bill that would result in a huge political mess.
We think this is not only a good call in terms of the government, but in terms of the larger economy.
The new head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, gave her first testimony on Capitol Hill and noted that while there have been good signs the economy is not yet functioning as well as anyone wants.
That means that another disruptive fight over the debt limit or another issue that might result in a government shutdown, as occurred last fall, would have consequences far beyond the closure of national parks or other short-term effects. It would endanger the encouraging but tentative signs of growth.
It’s dismaying that most Republicans bailed on Boehner. Instead, they cast symbolic votes against the debt limit, knowing that they were meaningless — the speaker and 16 other Republicans, more responsible than the rest, joined with Democrats to pass the debt limit measure.
Louisiana Republicans indulged in this tantrum against their own leadership. Can dysfunction within a political party get any worse? We doubt that any of the constituents were fooled at this throw-away vote that had nothing to do with actual fiscal responsibility.
What didn’t happen is a market-roiling disaster. That this was avoided, despite the manifest bad faith of most Republican members’ votes, is another case of a Capitol Hill political impasse that ended well enough, at least this time, for the economy.