You wouldn’t know it from most news coverage, but there is no logical or legislative connection between the House Republicans’ stated object of concern, the future budgetary path toward national solvency, and the bonds and notes the Treasury must keep issuing for programs this and previous Congresses have already voted into law. (Ie, additional debt.) It is a quirk of legislative history, not a principle of sound budgeting, that we calculate a “debt ceiling” at all, those debts being a predictable consequence of the programs Congress enacts. That’s why increases in the ceiling in the past have been routine measures, or occasions for minor grandstanding. These minor episodes include then-Senator Obama’s vote against an increase in 2006. That one passed, as of course did six other increases under George W. Bush (along with the 17 under Ronald Reagan).

And he posts two charts that show how much of the debt is due to the Bush tax cuts (emphasis mine):

It fails the test of basic logic. Or perhaps basic knowledge part #2. If you look at the numbers, like the chart after the jump, you can see that budget-balancing involves a theshold choice. You can be for preserving tax cuts in toto, or you can be for cutting the deficit. But because the tax cuts have played such a major role in creating the deficit, if you have any regard for math or logic you really can’t be for both. But most House Republicans are.

Finally, I got some heat at an Andrew Breitbart site for writing this in the previously mentioned post:

If you’re not reporting that the Republicans are ultimately to blame for the crisis here, then you’re not reporting the truth. The Democrats would vote to up the debt ceiling—which pays for bills we’ve already accrued (mostly under Republican presidents)—in a straight-up vote.

Their response:

I’m guessing that Ryan Chittum either can’t use Google (or any search engine) or he is lying. Why do I say that? Because I remember a straight-up vote being taken in the House earlier this year. It took me about 10 seconds to type in “clean debt ceiling vote” and find numerous articles about a vote taken on May 31, 2011. This year. Here’s one of the hits. (via

“From the beginning, the Obama White House wanted a “clean” hike to the debt ceiling… in other words, an increase not tied to any substantial spending reforms or cuts.

That dream just died.

In a largely symbolic vote, the clean hike failed 318-97”

Yeah, see, the problem with that is that even back then—two months ago—all ninety-seven of the “yea” votes were Democrats. Eighty-two voted against it. And that 97-82 result was with their whip telling them to vote against what was a transparently bogus Republican stunt with no hope of passing. Plus, 114 had signed up for a Dem-sponsored straight-up vote.

In other words, like I said, Democrats would vote to up the debt ceiling in a straight-up vote.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.