Debt ceiling: non-negotiable

Former President Bill Clinton is an expert on dealing with Republican members of Congress.

That’s if you consider today’s crop of Republican lawmakers in the same league as those with whom the 42nd president dealt. Still, Clinton offers some sound advice to the 44th president, Barack Obama: Don’t negotiate on whether to raise the debt ceiling. It must be done, Clinton said, and the nation must avoid defaulting on its financial obligations, no matter what.

The federal government appears headed for a shutdown on Tuesday. Miracles do happen. Don’t count on one to save this train wreck. Mark it down: A shutdown is going to cost the Republicans — perhaps dearly — in the 2014 midterm elections.

The bigger battle awaits. On Oct. 17, the United States’s ability to borrow money to pay its obligations runs out unless the Congress increases the amount of money it can borrow. Republicans are playing hardball over that as well.

Bill Clinton told ABC News this morning that his own negotiations with congressional Republican leaders were “very minor.” The government shut down in the mid-1990s and voters reacted angrily to the GOP’s tactics. “We didn’t give away the store and they didn’t ask us to give away the store,” Clinton told ABC’s George Stephanopoulous. True enough, but the Republicans then were a more reasonable bunch than those with whom Barack Obama is dealing.

Of course, Clinton’s problems with the GOP congressional leadership didn’t end when the government re-started. He ended up getting impeached by the House — and acquitted in the Senate.

If you look only at Clinton’s dealings with the House GOP on budget matters, though, you have to conclude that he had it right and congressional Republicans had it very wrong.

Today’s GOP leadership needs to wise up to the calamity that’s about to occur if they force the government to default on its debts.

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