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Citation From the September 23, 2021, edition of CNN’s New Day with John Berman and Brianna Keilar

JOHN BERMAN (CO-ANCHOR): The full faith and credit of the United States, now just another political football. But it was not always thus. John Avlon with a reality check.

JOHN AVLON (CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST): The latest entry in America’s self-inflicted wound sweepstakes is the debt ceiling. It is an absurd, artificial fiscal cliff that risks the U.S. defaulting on its debt — something that would damage our credibility and throw the world economy into crisis, while pulling America into recession, almost overnight.

And yet, we're playing Russian roulette with this right now, largely because Republicans don't want to help Democrats avoid a national disaster. They think it might benefit them politically — despite the fact the Democrats have often extended the debt ceiling for Republican presidents, including three times for Donald Trump. Let me pull back.

Now, America's had debt basically since its founding. We’ve had a debt ceiling since World War I, which requires Congress to raise the limit on what the government can borrow. But that's usually a formality. For example, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times under Ronald Reagan, while the national debt almost tripled to $2.1 trillion.

But back then, Democrats controlled the House, and they invoked a common sense measure known as the Gephardt Rule, stating that Congress automatically authorized whatever borrowing is needed to fund the budget that they passed. Makes sense, right?

But when Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich took control of the House in 1995, under Democratic President Bill Clinton, they ditched the Gephardt Rule — instead using the debt ceiling as leverage, leading to an era of the government shutdown.

That got so bad that during the standoff in 2011, America lost its AAA credit rating, with the S&P stating that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking had weakened. Sen. Mitch McConnell looked on the crisis with some satisfaction — calling it a “hostage” that’s “worth ransoming.” But when Trump was president in 2019, McConnell sang a very different tune.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We will never have America default. … Well, we raised the debt ceiling because America can't default. I mean, that would be a disaster.


AVLON: Right? And because there was bipartisan concern, Republicans and Democrats actually suspended the debt ceiling for two years — even while Trump increased America's debt by nearly $8 trillion. Now, Democrats are in control of the White House and Congress, and here's Mitch McConnell.


MCCONNELL: Republicans are united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling.


AVLON: McConnell's rationale is that this is the Democrats’ problem to solve. And it might be — if Senate Republicans hadn't threatened the filibuster, which means Democrats will need 60 votes to avoid hitting the debt ceiling sometime in October.

This is madness. There’s a reason no other major industrialized nation has a debt ceiling. Because it’s basically an invitation to chaos. According to Moody's Analytics, “A prolonged impasse over the debt ceiling would cost the U.S. economy up to 6 million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate surging to roughly 9% from around 5%.”

Now, Republicans say they're doing this in the name of fiscal discipline. Don't buy it. Because it does nothing to actually reduce the debt — we're paying down money we already spent. In fact, failing to raise the debt ceiling would actually cost taxpayers more money, because default would make it more expensive to borrow. No wonder former Republican Treasury secretaries have been trying to warn Republicans in the Senate of the dangerous consequences of this game. But reason left the building a long time ago.

That's why it’s time to ditch the debt ceiling, one way or the other, together. As former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said, “We took on this debt in a bipartisan way. … Reality is not a partisan thing. Raising the debt limit is acknowledging reality, not making a partisan choice.” And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: And again, this is not a both-sides thing.

AVLON: Nope.

BERMAN: This is one party that has made this an issue.