Opinion - Georgia could use leadership in U.S. House

GOP House members are content to play chicken over U.S. debt

The weeks of back-and-forth negotiations that have taken place in Washington. D.C., over the federal government's debt ceiling have been not just a cause for concern and frustration among Americans, but arguably a source of national embarrassment. We live in a country whose leaders can't reach agreement on whether to pay our own debts.

House Republicans appear to be willing to let America skate perilously close to default — perhaps even letting it drop over the edge — as part of a grand game of political "chicken" designed to extract concessions from President Obama that will undercut his chances of re-election. That's not just our viewpoint; such right-leaning observers as New York Times columnist David Brooks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even Senate Republicans have criticized the House GOP's reckless brinkmanship.

What have Georgia's own Republican congressmen been up to during this impending train wreck? Helping shovel coal into the engine, of course, by parroting the Tea Party line about refusing to raise the debt ceiling until the federal government (read: the Obama administration) curbs its profligate spending.

Give us a break. This is the same crew that was a rubber stamp for the budget-busting Bush White House, voting to raise the debt ceiling no fewer than seven times during W's tenure. Clearly, for them this isn't about the nation's debt; it's about politics.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, for instance, has called for deep cuts in spending — but not for the military, which now claims 20 percent of the federal budget and enjoyed a budget increase courtesy of House Republicans earlier this year. Most of Price's fellow Georgia caucus members have been in similar lockstep with GOP leaders as they march the nation toward a cliff.

As usual, Rep Paul Broun, R-Athens, broke ranks, but instead of urging compromise on raising the debt ceiling, he introduced legislation to lower it by $1 trillion, a move that would serve to plunge the country back into recession. Taking over the state's designated "crazy seat" from erstwhile Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney hardly qualifies as leadership.

In fact, when a Georgia politician does show some leadership — as Sen. Saxby Chambliss has arguably done by joining the "Gang of Six," which aims to mediate a resolution to the budget crisis — he is attacked as a traitor to conservatism and threatened with primary opposition.

Frankly, our current crop of congressmen makes us nostalgic for the days of Speaker Gingrich. We certainly didn't agree with much of what Newt said or did, but he put Georgia on the political stage. By comparison, the pathetic bunch of ideological yes-men and back-benchers who now represent us in D.C. couldn't find their way out of the green room.

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