U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) wants everyone to know she’s against big federal spending. That’s why she voted against raising the debt ceiling last week, she says.

But what her “no” vote actually means is she’s unwilling to pay the United States’ debts, keep the federal government running and prevent a potential worldwide economic catastrophe.

Opinion

And Lummis says she’ll keep voting no, regardless of whether it means the government defaults on its debt — something that has never happened in the nation’s history.

It’s partisan politics at its worst. Playing games with the debt limit is dangerous and irresponsible. The possibility of default sent stocks tumbling by 18% in 2011, after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S.’s credit rating.

“Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t authorize additional spending of taxpayer dollars,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained in a September Wall Street Journal op-ed. Instead, it’s about America keeping its word and honoring the commitments we’ve already made — including the very expensive commitments Lummis’ party rammed through under the previous administration.

If a deal on a new debt limit fails, Yellen wrote, millions of Americans could be strapped for cash in a matter of days. 

“Nearly 50 million seniors could stop receiving Social Security checks for a time,” she warned. “Troops could go unpaid. Millions of families who rely on the monthly child tax credit could see delays.”

The White House Council of Economic Advisers, meanwhile, said a U.S. default “would send shock waves through global financial markets and likely cause credit markets worldwide to freeze up and stock markets to plunge. Employers around the world would likely have to begin laying off workers.”

In our turbulent global economy, there is one safe haven, one institution in which investors can and do place absolute faith — the U.S. government. Lend it money and you will be repaid. That certainty underpins business and finance across the globe, and it’s no small part of what makes the U.S. a global superpower.  

Those are the stakes of our good senator’s twisted game of political chicken — global economic chaos and the value of our nation’s word of honor. It’s a “Nero fiddles while Rome burns” brand of politics. 

Lummis has been inconsistent on this issue, and has certainly done her share of can-kicking whenever her party has asked her to.

Kerry Drake

Lummis, a three-term congresswoman who’s nearly a year into her first senatorial term, knows this. She also served two terms as Wyoming state treasurer.

What Lummis posted on Facebook last month is telling: “I wasn’t in the office last time we had this fight [in 2019], but I would have voted no then too. Raising the debt ceiling is just another attempt to kick the can down the road instead of fixing our spending problem.”

I doubt she would have dared to cast a “no” vote on the bipartisan measure that provided a two-year debt limit increase that technically expired in July. That bill was supported by then-President Donald Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). Would she actually have bucked both party leaders?

Lummis has been inconsistent on this issue, and has certainly done her share of can-kicking whenever her party has asked her to. She told Wyoming Public Radio in 2012 that she regretted her “yes” vote a year earlier and would vote no on future increases. She then voted for a temporary debt limit suspension in 2013. 

Why? Because the GOP was getting hammered for shutting down the government and had to show a unified front and act fast. 

The 2013 bill was remarkably similar to the measure Congress passed Thursday, when now-Senate Minority Leader McConnell caved in and allowed the Treasury to borrow up to $480 billion — enough to keep the government afloat until Dec. 3. He arranged for 10 other Republicans to join him, ending his party’s filibuster. Then the GOP senators all voted no, leaving the bill to be passed with a simple Democratic majority.

One of those 10 Republicans was Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and third in the GOP hierarchy in the chamber. Even though he was just following McConnell’s lead, I’ll give Barrasso credit for moving the bill forward.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), who succeeded Lummis, joined every GOP House member in voting against a bill last month to fund the government through December, raise the debt ceiling and provide relief for Afghan refugees and victims of natural disasters. It fell to Democrats alone to support the measure.

The House is set to vote on the Senate debt limit bill today [Oct. 12]. There’s no reason to expect Cheney, who’s locked in an intense fight back home to retain her seat, to suddenly join the majority.

When the extension expires in two months, it will set off another contentious debate between McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York). McConnell acquiesced on the short-term fix, but only after President Joe Biden publicly suggested that Senate Democrats might change the filibuster rule and allow for a simple majority vote.

That’s the big hammer Democrats have at their disposal, because any carve-outs to the filibuster rule could lead to others and seriously damage McConnell’s power in the Senate.

The minority leader wants to force Democrats to put the debt limit extension in their “Build Back Better Bill,” the proposed $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill at the heart of Biden’s agenda.

Democrats won’t do it, because they know the GOP will surely kill the entire thing. If authority to raise the debt ceiling dies with the rest of the package, it would create a hell of a mess.

This is a fight that shouldn’t even happen. The Treasury Department says Congress has acted 78 times since 1960 to either permanently raise, temporarily extend or revise the debt limit.

Democrats joined Republicans to raise the debt ceiling three times in four years during Trump’s single term.

McConnell expressed a far different attitude in 2019, when he said, “Well, we raised the debt ceiling because America can’t default. I mean that would be a disaster.”

But now a Democrat is in the White House, and McConnell’s mission is to sabotage Biden’s administration.

Lummis, Barrasso and Cheney shouldn’t be complicit in holding America’s — and the world’s — economy hostage. But they have their marching orders.

Isn’t it amazing how Republican lawmakers suddenly become deficit hawks whenever Democrats are in charge? These same officials didn’t give a hoot about spending under Trump. The national debt grew by nearly $7.8 trillion during his term, and Wyoming’s delegation aided and abetted him.

In Trump, Lummis hitched her political wagon to a guy who spent money like crazy. Now, preaching thrift, she’s threatening to blow up the economy on the off chance of pinning the wreckage on the Democrats. 

Let’s hope Lummis prioritizes her obligation to the full faith and credit of the United States over her loyalty to a failed former president before it’s too late.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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31 Comments

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  1. I got a new credit card. It raised my debt limit. Now I can spend more money on new stuff. But I have a balanced budget rule. So I have to pay It off immediately. So raising my debt limit does not increase my debt.
    I had a first wife who did not have a balanced budget rule. When she ran out of room to borrow she got another card and kept spending. That is what raising the debt limit meant to her. You ran out of room on your card and you needed another one because you needed more stuff. They send you checks with your new card that you can use to pay old bills like congress does. She thought that was magic. Those checks paid off old debt and she could go shopping. But those checks just robbed Peter to pay Paul… and raised the actual debt in the process. Maybe Drake never had to deal with a spendaholic in real life. Maybe he just doesn’t understand how to balance a ledger. Or maybe he just had a job to do for the DNC.

  2. Democrats literally ruin everything they touch. Everything.
    Schools. Taxes. Healthcare. Shipping. Economy. Afghanistan.
    And they play pin the tail on the Republican and think that will hide their evil.
    It does not. It is there for all to see.

  3. Article is disingenuous. If this paper is unbiased why are you running an opinion piece that leaves out the reasons for the no vote? I smell a demo who has faild to camouflage himself.

    1. You almost had the answer in your second sentence, then you let it get away….

      It’s an opinion piece. Opinion of the writer. There is no standard that an opinion writer is obligated to appease everyone who reads their work. If someone else’s opinion causes you so much angst, then you should take some personal responsibility in your internet browsing habits and avoid the issues that trigger you.

    2. Of course the real reason is-politics. The Repubs are the disingenuous folks, at least in this case.

  4. Haha , Senator Lummis.. member of Birther/ Tea Party, Freedom Caucus/ White Nationalist and now an active Seditionist- obstruction of free election. How rich that Wyoming’s premier grifter won’t pay down on her party’s expenditures. Ms Cheney, like a broken clock is right twice a day, voting to impeach and now to to investigate. Senator Barasso showed his expertise as a physician following tRumps Covid failures with his smiles of adulation. The most important observations are that the current GOP is set on destroying the United States as we knew it. Russian style misinformation/ propaganda and political grandstanding at someone else’s expense are their talking points. Always enjoyable to listen to Cynthia talk of wasted money; how much did she and her ilk cost Wyoming and the US during every Government shutdown. For now we are stuck with 3 partisans who have not in their collective years accomplished anything meaningful for Wyoming or the US. Thank you for making me think too much.. time to stand out in the wind and cool off!

    1. Good job Bill. Lets also not forget C. Lummis trying to take federal lands. She’s really a libertarian, and they don’t believe in federal land. All three of our Reps are goose stepping corporate boot lickers.

  5. Neither political party is ethical or honest, and both have – historically – adopted desperate measures in their attempts to cling to power when they fear losing it. We in Wyoming used to bristle at outside interference and resent attempts to manage our state from the outside. And yet, these pols are allowing Federal political parties from outside our state – which don’t care one whit about us – to dictate their actions. It’s sad. We need to reclaim our independence.

  6. Rep. Lummis, ex-rodeo queen, ranch girl, cowgirl image-projector, needs to review the “Cowboy Ethic” and decide for herself where she comes up short: 1. Live each day with courage 2. Take pride in your work 3. Always finish what you start 4. Do what has to be done 5. Be tough, but fair 6. When you make a promise, keep it
    7. Ride for the brand 8. Talk less and say more 9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale 10. Know where to draw the line.

  7. You can read these same DNC talking points on any mainstream media, yet somehow liberals think this is original when they are posted here. Everyone knows it’s an opinion piece, but not everyone agrees, and the radicals can’t accept that. “There’s no agenda” . . . .there’s no such thing.

    1. They all get the email with the script. They type up or say the talking points and then the check comes. As Tessio said to Michael, it was just business.

    2. Original? No. I’m sure there are hundreds of similar opinion pieces across the country that repeat much of what was said here. The only difference is that they are directed towards different names.

      It’s the new age Republican way. Bend over backwards for their own party, but obstruct when it’s not their party in the majority.

  8. Somebody needs to teach the politicians in this country how to balance a check book.

    Also a suggestion to Mr. Drake

    The blue box at the beginning of your article that states OPINION Is apparently not big enough for many people to see. You may want to get your editors to make it bigger.

  9. The motivations of Lummis – a career-long partisan apparatchik – are obvious. Cause markets to tank and the nation to suffer economic harm so that it can be blamed on the President and his party in future electoral campaigns. She and her party are hoping that Wyomingites, and Americans in general, have a poor enough understanding of government that they know no better to accept these lies as gospel. It’s embarrassing that our state is “represented” (not!) by someone so deceitful.

    1. Read some of the comments here. There are those who will always blame everything on those who don’t have an R before their name. Facts and truth don’t matter to them unfortunately.

      1. An R means nothing. The Party is one group.
        Democrats choose to be more obvious, but as Cheney has shown us, all politicians are snakes. Hageman seems to be just as insincere. I pick on Democrats because they lie so blatantly and so obviously, but no one in politics is anyone’s friend. Learn that simple truth and it all makes sense.

  10. Opinion?
    This is DNC propaganda. Blatant.
    Lots sheep just gobble it up. Sad.
    The economy is on a trajectory to crash and the lunatics in DC are all in on it. Who has been there for 40 years or more? Blame them. This is a Thelma and Louise event and the career politicians that our founders tried to prevent are driving the car. Only a partisan hack would blame individuals who question the corruption that is Washington. Grow up.

  11. Once again, the American people are held hostage by the clowns in DC. It would be an amazing thing to see both sides come together to figure out a common sense solution, but their delight, Republican or Democrat is grandstanding to the American people. We are ALL tired of it…..get to the TRUTH….it’s somewhere in the MIDDLE…you CLOWNS!!

  12. Moscow Mitch’s entire agenda is to do anything, at any cost, to make Biden and democrats look bad and the country be damned. I would ask Barrasso, Lummis, and Cheney why they think defaulting on the debts their party ran up under Benedict Donald will help their constituents back here in Wyoming but I’m sure they would use their expertise in political weasel speak to evade answering.

    1. Funny, I believe the democrats just spent the last 4 years making Trump/Republicans look bad – with a lot of help from the media. Now the Republicans are making the Democrats look bad – which right now is not too hard – and you want to complain about it?

      Maybe that is the one common denominator. Maybe we should approach this differently, instead of spending all of our time poking at Moscow Mitch or “Brandon” trying to make each party look bad, we should elect people that can actually provide some leadership and work together to build a better America.

      Senator Lummis is correct. This country has a government spending problem and some day the bank (China) is going to want their money back. The train wreck is coming, you cannot tax the wealthy out of this debt load and expect to repay all of this debt. Just watch the economy get hammered when the day of reckoning comes and everyone finally has to pay their fair share. Should be interesting what the tax and spend side of the fence has to say at that point.

      1. Your timing of appreciating fiscal conservatism and responsibility comes at a convenient time.

        You might get more agreement if you had shown the same enthusiasm prior to Biden being duly elected.

        1. Conservatives have been upset for literally decades. The fraudulent elections that robbed Ron Paul because he wanted to stop the Fed and their criminal behavior were well known when Trump was still a darling of the left. We have a memory. We never forgive and never forget.

      2. The thieves in DC could take everything the rich and middle class has and the debt would still be there. Unfunded obligations top 200 trillion.
        Derivatives top off in the quadrillions and will crash the market and clear out bank accounts at major banks. There is a reckoning coming.

  13. Thank you for another common sense, insightful and evidence based opinion. The lack of integrity in our political representatives has been astonishing and your bringing it to light is a breath of fresh air.

  14. It’s amazing that someone who has such a minimal understanding of this crucial financial issue and it’s importance to Wyoming’s increasingly fragile economy could be a Senator. Or is Lummis just grandstanding? Maybe when thousands of Wyomingites don’t get their government checks and those with stocks– the rich fellows in Jackson and Lummis herself — see their stocks hit the toilet with a splash they will start thinking about who they vote for. Trump, who himself is in deep financial doo doo won’t save them!

  15. Kerry you are so left. Definitely shows in this article. Good journalism provides both sides. Good morals begin with giving more than receiving. Keeping your word shows credibility. I see you supporting unjust gain and lack of integrity.

    1. You seem not to understand that this is an opinion piece. Perhaps you could explain what is “so left” about pointing out the abject hypocrisy and potentially dangerous economic consequences of the games that Republicans are playing right now with the debt ceiling. The rest of your post is unintelligible.

  16. It is ludicrous for our representative and senators to play these games with the economy. Every one of us would suffer if the US defaults. It is time our delegation focuses on the country and constitution instead of heir political well being.