Time For Congress to Lead on the Debt Ceiling
As we saw at yesterday's press conference, President Obama is not going to lead on the debt ceiling issue. Nor is he going to compromise or play a mediating role. He is more interested in blaming others for his troubles, demagoguing other solutions and running for re-election.
This is why conservatives need to be reminded not to yield to scare tactics. Last night, our sister organization, Heritage Action for America, announced it would ask Members of Congress to vote "no" on raising the debt ceiling--unless, that is, a deal "rises to the level of the substantial fiscal challenges which face our nation." Heritage Action also said it would score that vote on its official scorecard.
In other words, Members of Congress must not pass up this opportunity to lead as President Obama has.
The Heritage Foundation has previously laid out exactly what an acceptable package might look like. It must: 1) significantly cut current spending; 2) restrict future spending; and 3) fix the budget process. Heritage Action for America notes that only one plan currently being debated meets this test, and that is the plan embodied in the "Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge." Heritage Action goes on to say: "This is an example of a plan that matches the historical moment that we currently face as a nation."
But this reform will not be easy. President Obama is intent on laying the groundwork to blame Congress if a deal is not reached. It's why the President pointed his finger at Congress several times yesterday, saying it was "their job" and "these are bills that Congress ran up" and finally excusing himself: "I've been doing Afghanistan, bin Laden and the Greek crisis." Apparently for the President, the economy of Greece is more important than preventing the American economy from collapsing…like Greece's.
Some Members of Congress are working toward appropriate solutions. All 47 Republican Senators have co-sponsored a balanced budget proposal in the Senate. Likewise, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated similar support among House Republicans for such a measure. The House GOP also passed a budget with significant savings, and they have proposed entitlement reform ideas. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats haven't even engaged in the budget process in more than two years.
But Congress must also act to relieve the uncertainty caused by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's August 2 deadline and keep President Obama focused on solutions rather than political talking points. Congress can do so by exercising its constitutional power of the purse and prioritizing federal spending, based on the framework of legislation introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA).
As Heritage economist J.D. Foster has pointed out:
Both immediately and long after it reaches the debt limit, the government would have far more than enough revenue coming in that the Secretary of the Treasury could use to pay interest on the debt. Nor would preserving the current debt limit put at risk the full faith and credit of the United States government, as the President's chief economic adviser has claimed. The government would continue to pay net interest as it comes due.
In fact, yesterday the Bipartisan Research Council released a Debt Ceiling Analysis that showed that even if the August 2 deadline is missed, the federal government would still have enough revenue to pay for: "all interest on Treasury securities (thus avoiding default), all Social Security obligations, all Medicare and Medicaid obligations, all Defense contractor bills, all Veterans payments, and all active duty troops, and still have almost $7 billion left over for other items." Congress can and should take its time to get this right.
Finally, any deal that cuts spending, restricts future spending and fixes the budget process will not fit on a single page. That is why it is critical that the American public have a full 72 hours to review the details of any deal to increase the debt ceiling. As Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham notes:
The Washington inclination to go behind closed doors and strike a grand deal is unacceptable. Heritage Action, and the hundreds of thousands of Americans we represent, demand transparency and accountability. Americans must feel confident their Members of Congress understand what they are voting on. There must not be another "pass the bill so that we can find out what is in it" moment.
The status quo is not a plan. There is no saving Medicare or Social Security "as we know it." America is on an unsustainable course, and raising taxes on job creators and wage providers will neither fix the problems in Washington nor help rescue a flailing economy. Half-measures and gimmicks will only push these problems down the road, and onto our children and grandchildren.
The crisis is now. Now is the time for substantive action. The American people demand it.