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TRAVIS N. TAYLOR: The Democrats Are Playing A Losing Game Of Debt-Ceiling Chicken

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As the federal government approaches the inability to pay its bills, House Democrats appear ready to play a game of chicken with Republicans over the debt ceiling. Unfortunately for Democrats (but fortunately for the fiscally sane), this game puts them in a dangerous position—in opposition to the American people.

In a letter to congressional Democrats, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries paid homage to bipartisanship while calling commonsense Republican proposals “extreme.” While we can’t know exactly which of the Republican plans Mr. Jeffries considers an “extreme condition,” we can safely assume that he probably means the one that would include spending cuts or the one that would require some able-bodied adults on welfare to work.

Just how “extreme” are these proposals? To evaluate that question, let’s use White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s definition of “extreme”: “When you are not with where a majority of Americans are, then you know, that is extreme.” To simplify that, the Left says it’s extreme to disagree with something that 50 percent of Americans agree with. (RELATED: ALFREDO ORTIZ: America Needs A Debt Ceiling Deal That Actually Does Something About Reckless Spending)

Recently, the Center for Excellence in Polling conducted extensive polling on federal spending and the debt ceiling. We have found consistently that voters are fed up with the way Congress and, increasingly, the bureaucracy, squander the tax dollars hardworking Americans (involuntarily) send to Washington.

Here’s how “extreme” it is to demand spending cuts as part of a debt ceiling increase: A full two-thirds of voters told us that Congress should raise the debt ceiling only alongside a reduction in federal spending. This view is shared by 81 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Independents. Only Democratic voters support raising the debt ceiling without a reduction in spending, but only by the slimmest of margins. Nearly half of Democratic voters are not as removed from reality as their party’s leadership.

Moving on to work requirements. Is it “extreme” to require able-bodied adults to work part time as a condition of receiving taxpayer-funded welfare benefits? 

Our polling shows that between 70 and 76 percent of voters, depending on the specific welfare program we ask about, support work requirements for individuals on welfare. This large majority includes most voters irrespective of their party affiliation. 

And because the ballot box is the ultimate test of public opinion, we can look to Wisconsin’s recent vote on welfare work requirements, which passed with nearly 80 percent support. 

So, those who oppose welfare work requirements hold the extreme position, not those who support such a requirement.

But what about the attempts by Republicans to tie welfare work requirements to the debt ceiling? Is that an “extreme condition”? No, it’s not. We recently asked voters about including welfare work requirements in any debt ceiling increase, and 58 percent of them support conditioning the debt ceiling hike on welfare work requirements. Again, opposing efforts to tie welfare work requirements to the debt ceiling is the extreme position.

One more possible debt ceiling condition that Mr. Jeffries might consider “extreme” is linking the debt ceiling to efforts to limit bureaucratic spending. The REINS Act, which would require bureaucratic agencies to obtain congressional approval for expensive regulations, is popular in its own right, garnering support from 67 percent of voters, nearly all of whom say they would support tying it to the debt ceiling deal. (RELATED: FRANK LASEE: Republicans Shouldn’t Give An Inch On The Debt Ceiling)

What does all of this mean? It means simply that Democrats are on the wrong side of the debt ceiling debate. It’s clear that the Democrats’ reckless debt ceiling proposals are the “extreme” position, aimed at garnering the support of their narrow base rather than honest attempts to govern in a bipartisan way or to appeal to the vast majority of Americans.

Voters do not want a “clean” debt ceiling bill. As Americans are still reeling from the high inflation that has become a hallmark of the Biden administration’s economy, they want meaningful reform out of Washington—some kind of fiscal sanity to offset the insanity of another debt ceiling hike.

And here’s the takeaway for Democrats. Our polling shows that they will bear more solitary blame than Republicans for failed debt ceiling negotiations. 

Democrats are playing a dangerous game of chicken with the debt ceiling, and they are on a crash course with American voters.

Travis N. Taylor, Ph.D. is senior market research analyst at the Center for Excellence in Polling, a project of the Foundation for Government Accountability.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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