Debt ceiling: 2011 showdown leaves lessons for Biden, GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The debate around raising the debt ceiling sounds eerily similar: Newly elected House Republicans, eager to confront the Democratic president in the White

House, refused to raise the debt limit without cuts to federal spending. Negotiations over the debt ceiling consumed Washington in 2011, a high-stakes showdown between the

Obama White House and the new generation of “tea party” House Republicans. “Now we’re getting down to the real hard stuff: I’ll trade you my bicycle for your golf clubs,”

the chief negotiator, Vice President Joe Biden, said at the time. But weeks of tense talks between Biden and the House Republicans collapsed that summer, sending Washington

careening toward a fiscal crisis. When Republicans in Congress refused to raise the debt ceiling, the government risked a catastrophic default and suffered a devastating credit

downgrade, a first in the nation’s history. Lessons learned from the debt ceiling standoff more than a decade ago are rippling through Washington, as the White House and

Congress brace for another fiscal showdown — one that appears headed toward a very similar outcome. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are willing to budge. “The whole debate

is a façade,” said William Gale, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution who wrote “Fiscal Therapy: Curing America’s Debt Addiction and Investing in the Future,”

a book on the U.S. debt. “That was the height of the ‘tea party’ stuff and they wanted to flex their muscles, but it’s just such a stupid way to try to do it — because you

don’t really want to risk the good credit rating of the United States government,” Gale said. “I suspect most of these guys already knew it."