Tonight the House voted to raise the debt ceiling by $480 billion, which should keep the country afloat until December 3. The vote was 219 to 206, with all Republicans either voting no or refusing to vote.
Republican representative Andy Biggs from Arizona moved to adjourn Congress rather than take the vote at all. Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) said he would not vote to raise the debt ceiling because government spending funds “tyranny” over people’s lives. He complained about “a border that’s not secure,” “Critical Race Theory being taught to our children,” and a litany of other Republican talking points.
The debt ceiling needs to be raised not to pay for future spending, but for past spending, including the $7.8 trillion the Republicans put on the national tab during the four years of the Trump presidency.
Permitting the nation to default on its debts would crash the economy and destroy our international standing, likely for the foreseeable future. But Republicans are willing to do that if it means regaining power by playing to their base.
With Democrats in control of the national government, Republicans are retreating to the states to launch their bid to take back national power. Having cemented their control of Republican-dominated states with new election laws that suppress Democratic voting or give control of certifying elections to Republican boards, Republicans are much more concerned about challenges from the right than they are about having to moderate their stands.
This has made them increasingly radical. Today, on the day that CNN reported that official deaths from coronavirus have reached 715,000, Ohio Republican representative Jim Jordan tweeted that Ohio should end all vaccine mandates. That would include vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella, among other diseases.
Texas governor Greg Abbott went further. He signed an executive order prohibiting “any entity” from enforcing a vaccine mandate in Texas. This was not just a play to anti-vaxxers, but a declaration that his state is supreme over the federal government. Last month, President Joe Biden announced vaccine requirements for all federal workers and contractors, and today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the Department of Labor announced a vaccine or testing requirement for any company with 100 or more employees.”
This is not the first time Abbott has made such a demonstration. In June, he and Arizona governor Doug Ducey sent a letter to the other 48 governors asking them to send reinforcements to the southern border to do the job the Biden administration was, they wrote, “unwilling or unable” to do.
Six Republican governors answered their call with support that was more symbolic than powerful. Florida governor Ron DeSantis sent 50 law enforcement officers; Ohio governor Michael DeWine sent 185; Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts sent 24. Iowa governor Kim Reynolds sent “up to 30” National Guard troops; Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson sent 40; and South Dakota governor Kristi Noem sent “up to 50,” allegedly funded by a private donation. She boasted of this deployment at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) and on the Fox News Channel.
Those troops have been quietly brought home over the past few months, but their deployment demonstrated the states’ willingness to flex their muscles against the federal government and has forced the military into the center of the enforcement of right-wing ideology.
And, of course, the Texas anti-abortion law, S.B. 8, has offered a blueprint for other states to take away their citizens’ constitutional rights by turning over enforcement of the law to private individuals rather than the state. All constitutional rights—including all civil rights—could be overturned by vigilantes under this policy.
The Republicans’ resorting to cementing their power in the states echoes the path of southern Democrats in 1860. Aware they had lost control of the national government, they turned to radicalizing their states, then forced the states out of the Union quickly, before popular opposition could mobilize against secession.
When radicals took to the states to cement their power in 1860, the federal government had little power to stop them.
But in 1868, in the wake of the Civil War, Congress remedied that deficiency with the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment increased the power of the federal government over the states to protect civil rights. It declared, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
That same amendment protected the sanctity of the national debt, declaring that “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
What happened to the Texas troops is in Mark Moore, “Border reportedly ‘wide open’ after states pull National Guard troops,” New York Post, October 11, 2021. I can’t link it because it will mean spam filters will catch and kill this letter.
After reading the Letter, I sat quietly with an uncertain head. Did I have anything to write? I thought of a headline in yesterday's The New York Times, 'U.S. Hundreds of Police Officers Have Died From Covid. Vaccines Remain a Hard Sell.' Then I took a couple a few photos of the sunrise and texted one of them to a friend. Death is on my mind. I live in NYC. 34,402 of us have died from covid, 1 in 242. Morality, I think of that, too. The letter starts with Biggs and Roy. Abbott, DeSantis, McConnell, Trump rush to mind. Physical responses when writing their names are automatic. Mortality and Morality - tap, tap, tap - like scat singing. The breakdown of civil conduct may be at my door or in the park or anywhere. I looked for a poem.
BY LANGSTON HUGHES
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
Langston Hughes, "I, Too" from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates, Inc.
The 206 Republicans who voted to default violated their oaths of office to protect and defend the provisions of the Constitution, including the Fourteenth Amendment, so why are they not being held accountable? People who are willing to sacrifice the common welfare of their nation for the sake of a duplicitous, disgraced former president are not fit to hold public office in a democracy and should be removed, all 206 of them. The despicable actions of the Republicans are morally bankrupt and downright criminal. But since the American justice system no longer honors the rule of law, the "seemingly inexorable slide into likely violent conflict" noted by David Herrick seems imminent. I grieve for my country and the failure of its dysfunctional political system that has enabled a faction of sociopaths, scalawags and miscreants to hold the Constitution hostage.