Don’t wait for X date: Reach debt ceiling deal now, and don’t negotiate next time

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has now estimated that the so-called X-date at which the federal government defaults on public debt will fall on June 5 instead of June 1. The extra days shouldn’t put President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at ease; they should make haste to reach a deal that includes some minor cuts and then puts off the debt ceiling until 2025, off the docket for the 118th Congress altogether.

If the deal so offends the radical sliver of McCarthy’s GOP conference that has hung an ax over his head and is salivating for draconian cuts to government, then McCarthy’s path forward should be clear: he must grit his teeth and pass it with the help of the Democrats to avoid a total economic meltdown, accepting that Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert and the other misfits will try to march him to the proverbial plank.

It’s too late now to reverse course, but Biden really should have never let it come to this. He had the right idea when, as the rumblings of the inevitable showdown began months ago, he said “I will not let anyone use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip,” for the same reasons that we don’t negotiate with terrorists. Paying the ransom is a poor way to prevent further hostage-takings.

Who knows why Biden refused to even try some of the untested tools at his disposal, most notably the invocation of the 14th Amendment or the minting of the trillion-dollar coin, both approaches that had at least a solid chance at working.

Would either have stood up to legal scrutiny, particularly in the face of a hostile Supreme Court? Maybe, maybe not, but if they were struck down, all it would do is bring Biden back to square one. If they were successful, then they could have permanently disarmed this missile that we allow to be periodically pointed at the global economy just so a few zealots can push to cut Medicare and the IRS.