He [Barack Obama] keeps asserting that the debt limit has never been used "to extort a president or a government party." Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is selling the same story, saying "until very recently, Congress typically raised the debt ceiling on a routine basis . . . the threat of default was not a bargaining chip in the negotiations."Except for the 27 times since 1978 when it was just that;
Congressional Republicans who want legislative conditions in exchange for a debt-limit increase are following a strategy that has been pursued by both parties the majority of the time. Of the 53 increases in the debt limit, 26 were "clean"—that is, stand-alone, no strings-attached statutes. The remaining debt-limit increases were part of an omnibus package of other legislative bills or a continuing resolution. Other times, the limit was paired with reforms, only some of which were related to the budget.For examples;
In 1979, a Democratic Congress increased the debt limit but required Congress and the president to present balanced budgets for fiscal years 1981 and 1982. In 1980 the debt limit, again increased by a Democratic Congress, included repeal of an oil-import fee. In 1985, the debt limit that was raised by a divided Congress included a cigarette tax and a provision requiring Congress to pursue an alternative minimum corporate tax in the next year.
Most recently, a divided Congress that passed the 2011 debt-limit increase included the Budget Control Act which aimed to reduce the deficit by $2.4 trillion over 10 years and included the automatic budget sequester that kicked in on Jan. 1.Nor are the Republicans the only culprits;
All told, congressional Democrats have been responsible for 60% of the "dirty" increases when the debt limit was raised alongside other legislative items. Republicans were responsible for 15%. The remaining 25% occurred during divided Congresses.Maybe that's why the financial markets are yawning.