Late last week, Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration demanding transparency about the Administration’s plan to deal with the looming debt ceiling crisis. The way the debt ceiling has been used in recent years reflects the corrosion of our democracy. The debt ceiling is an arcane statutory rule that only allows the United States Treasury to pay up to a certain amount to cover its obligations on money it has already borrowed. Every few years, it needs to be raised to cover expenditures that Congress has already authorized. Were the United States to hit the limit, we would essentially be forced to default on our debt, throwing the U.S. and global economy into a tailspin and forever damaging the full faith and credit of the United States.
There are countless ways in which President Trump is an acute and urgent threat to our democracy, but the strains our democracy is under pre-date him. The act of putting power and partisanship over the well-being of the country has pervaded our politics in recent years, and the debt ceiling has been a particularly dangerous example of this. In 2011, when it came time to raise the limit, some extremists in one party used the threat of American economic calamity as means to achieve political ends that they could not achieve through the democratic process. They threatened to blow up the country’s credit unless their demands on unrelated issues were met. That episode was profoundly destabilizing for the country and for our democracy.
President Trump’s Senior Advisor Steve Bannon has reportedly said “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Creating chaos around the debt ceiling is a potent way for the Trump Administration to do that. It’s therefore essential for the health of our democracy that we know what the Administration may be planning as the debt ceiling debate is nearly upon us. If the Administration or certain of their allies in Congress are planning to start the clock on this time bomb again, the American people deserve to know so we can disarm it. So we’re suing to find out.