Hey international community, so you’re feeling helpless as you watch the debt limit crisis unfold in Washington? Here’s something you can do about it.
With the world’s economic policymakers in Washington this week for the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF, there is no shortage of commentary from foreign officials about the dire impact of a US government debt default (see here, here, and here), including the harm already done in the form of spikes in borrowing costs for their governments.
Of course, the criticism, pleas, and entreaties are no doubt falling on deaf ears when it comes to the faction in the House of Representatives that has triggered the crisis. If the tea party members aren’t going to listen to the US business community or increasingly their own constituents, they are hardly going to be swayed by foreign officials or the head of the International Monetary Fund (gasp, she’s French!).
And while members of the House of Representatives like Ted Yoho, Mo Brooks, and Steve King are at the extreme in Congress when it comes to their views on the debt limit (among other things), there’s one way in which they are not so different from any other member of Congress. They like to travel abroad.
That’s right, tea party members have not been immune from the lure of congressional delegations overseas. In the past year or so, Representative Mo Brooks traveled to Ankara and Istanbul (beautiful city!), Representative Ted Yoho went to Israel, and Representative Steve King made a trip to Germany.
Al Kamen at the Washington Post has made an industry of highlighting the non-work perks of trips like these over the years, but the delegations fundamentally depend on meetings to make their trips happen. A congressional delegation can’t go to Turkey, Israel, or Germany if there are no meetings waiting for them in those countries. After all, absent the meetings, it’s really just a vacation paid for by the US taxpayer or some private source, and as flexible as the rules are governing these trips, they aren’t that flexible.
So here’s my pitch to foreign officials. If you are frustrated by the stance of the tea partiers when it comes to the debt limit, then it’s time to cut them off. Stop taking meetings with them in your countries. The next time you get a request from a proposed delegation, scan the list. If it includes people whose actions are doing direct economic harm to your country and who won’t give your views the time of day, you should feel free to send them packing.