Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has condemned Republicans’ brinkmanship with the quickly approaching debt limit after GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, Fla., openly admitted on Tuesday that his party is approaching the issue as a “hostage” negotiation.
Political commentators and lawmakers have long observed that the Republican Party’s strategy toward the debt ceiling — of demanding that Democrats make huge cuts to social programs or else risk certain economic disaster — is a hostage situation that could result in economic ruin.
Gaetz, however, outright admitted as such in an interview with Semafor on Tuesday, going as far as to say that the hostage’s demands should be ignored. “I think my conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow, and they don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage,” he said.
Later on Tuesday evening, Ocasio-Cortez blasted Republicans for holding fast to their extremist demands and for moving even further to the right during talks with Democratic leaders, pointing out that economic experts and the Treasury Department say that the “X-date,” or the day that the government will run out of money to pay its bills and will be forced to default on its loans, is coming as early as June 1 — just about a week away.
“Even President Trump said during his administration that using the debt limit as a leverage point or negotiating tool is absolutely ludicrous and unacceptable, because the stakes are simply too high,” the progressive said on CNN. “To hold the entire U.S. economy hostage, particularly if the Republican evaluation is a cynical one, saying ‘if we tank the economy, we’ll expect people to blame the president,’ is reckless, it’s irresponsible.”
“The stakes of a default cannot be understated,” she continued. “The chaos that would ensue, and the impact on people’s everyday lives would likely be immediate. And it is one of the reasons we need to take default off of the table and have Republicans agree to raise the debt limit.”
The lawmaker went on to say that Gaetz’s comment makes clear the circumstances around the debt limit talks.
“For all of this talk about negotiations, Republicans are not negotiating at all,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Republican Matt Gaetz expressed in a party meeting today that this is, in fact, a hostage situation. And I want to be clear about what the Republican Party is taking hostage. It is not Democrats. It is the entire U.S. economy.”
The GOP is attempting to force Democrats to choose between two impossible situations, she said: risk a U.S. default and potential recession, harming the U.S.’s creditworthiness on a global scale, or cave to Republicans’ demands to entrench the fossil fuel industry, sap billions of dollars away from crucial health care and education programs, and hamper future negotiations on government spending for decades to come.
Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that Republicans are approaching the debt limit so recklessly that they won’t even acknowledge that the June 1 deadline, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned of, is legitimate, with Republicans making the bet that the nation’s leading economic experts are incorrect, without evidence of their own.
Progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez and other prominent lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have pushed back against the idea that Democrats must make concessions in order to raise the debt limit, as Democratic leaders seem to think. This week, 66 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to President Joe Biden to invoke the clause of the 14th Amendment that they say allows him to bypass Republicans and raise the debt limit.
Sanders has similarly called on Biden to use the 14th Amendment option, leading 10 of his Senate colleagues to ask Biden in a separate letter last week to act boldly to “preven[t] a global economic catastrophe.”