As we noted earlier this week, there is just one little problem with the left’s complaints that Republicans are holding the nation hostage over the debt limit: when push comes to shove, it is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that is going to be the one holding the gun. The Government Accountability office has certified that once the debt limit is reached, Geithner has complete discretion over which bills to pay. And since the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that tax revenue will be $2.23 trillion for this fiscal year, while interest payments on debt will only total $213 billion, the only reason the federal government would ever default on its debt is if Geithner chose to do so.
Seventeen GOP senators hammered home this point today with a letter to Geithner reading:
In light of your recent public comments conflating a decision not to raise the federal debt ceiling with outright default on the United States’ debt obligations, we write seeking clarity about the administration’s position. At issue is the stubborn fact that ultimate responsibility to use available Treasury funds to honor the debt obligations of the United States falls on you as Secretary of the Treasury. We believe it is irresponsible and harmful for you to sow the seeds of doubt in the market regarding the full faith and credit of the United States and ask that you set the record straight – that you will use all available Treasury funds necessary to prevent default while Congress addresses the looming debt crisis.
In the event of reaching the debt limit in the course of that debate, the decision of whether to use available Treasury funds to honor the United States’ debt obligations – and prevent the catastrophe of default – would ultimately fall to you. Recent comments conflating debt service with other spending notwithstanding, the markets, the courts, and the American people know differently.
And so we write today asking for your assurance that, as Treasury Secretary, you will not continue to encourage uncertainty as to whether or not the U.S. government will default on its publicly held debt by failing to use the Treasury’s sufficient funds to make necessary payments on the United States’ debt obligations. Such uncertainty could cause the markets to doubt the full faith and credit of the United States.
Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Orin Hatch, R-Utah, Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., Jim Inhofe R-Okla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Jim Risch, R-Idaho, John Thune, R-S.D., Pat Toomey, R-Penn., David Vitter, R-La., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., all signed the letter.