Saturday, October 9, 2021

In Context: Strategic Pause

After rejecting a request for a strategic pause from a Senator from his own party a month ago, Majority Leader Schumer this week accepted an offer for a pause from Republican Leader McConnell. Wall Street was getting nervous and credit rating agencies were announcing intended changes if the debt ceiling was not raised.

While Republicans felt they had a strong case for having nothing to do with a debt limit increase, they gave a temporary reprieve to ensure their case was airtight. Make no mistake, if they are not taken seriously, if the U.S. hits a hard fiscal limit, and Members of Congress start taking incoming from all corners of the economy, the pressure to “do something” will be immense, unlike anything yet seen.

What McConnell said: A day after noting “Democrats requested and won new powers—new powers—to repeatedly reuse the reconciliation process,” he said this week’s actions “definitively resolv[e] the majority's excuse that they lacked time to address the debt limit through the 304 reconciliation process.” In other words, Senate Democrats asked for this, and now Republicans are going to make sure they use it. If Democrats want the infrastructure bills linked, the Republicans are going to make sure the debt limit is linked, too.

What Schumer understood: This week’s “vote is proof positive that the debt limit can be addressed without going through the reconciliation process, just as Democrats have been saying for months.” His insults to Republicans in that speech in response to their mercy is hardening their resolve to ensure his conclusion is incorrect.

We’ve had months of the party leaders talking past each other, and now we’re signed up for about two more. This strategic pause is not a cooling off period. This is a period of entrenchment for an even hotter fight in 55 calendar days with multiple major legislative deadlines once again coming due all at once: annual government funding, annual defense legislation, debt limit, etc.

It's also worth noting this is not a done deal yet. While response to this Senate action from House Democrats has been muted, they have no margin for error, and some moderates are not happy about how this now increases the number of debt ceiling increase votes they will have to take this Congress.

Democrats claim that the debt limit is about past spending. Fair enough. Now we are reaping what we have sown. If this is now a problem, the answer is not to sow more of what led to the problem. Needing and allowing more debt does not demonstrate a willingness to pay; it demonstrates the opposite. The debt limit is the last legislative tool to ensure that we stop sowing into this problem and making it worse. The ultimate and necessary answer is to change our minds about those ways and seek the mercy of the Lord.

Not that long ago, the debt ceiling did not hold that much sway over American lawmaking. The same can be said for the full faith and credit of the United States. An increase in debt not being needed is what make our credit credible.

Debt tells lies. It says you can reap now and sow later. It teaches that our time later is worth less than our time now. So much of what we chase in this life is only a shadow of things to come in abundance. The true substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:17). We would be better off setting our minds on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). We should not stop looking at what is happening in Congress, but we should stop looking to Congress to make things happen.

Father, we ask you to give us a strategic pause before You, to raise up Your Truth from Your Word in this time, in this place, in our nation, in our Congress, with our leaders. May they know and see who we were, who we have been, who we are, Your purposes for us, how we have turned away from them, and how You want to bring us back to Yourself.

Father, we also lift up Speaker Pelosi before you. We thank you for her trip to visit Pope Francis, and we ask You to open her heart to the sanctity of life and the amazing work You do in the womb. Please turn her and our Nation away from the evil of the taking of life in the womb. To the extent that this is the underlying issue in our nation right now, we ask you to make that plain to our leaders, and give them the will to act according to Your will.

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-15)

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