Concerning the federal debt ceiling
Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013 7:00 pm
THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES
Until recently, Republicans had been threatening again to hold the nation’s economy and credit rating hostage in yet another debt-ceiling crisis to leverage a new federal budget with deep cuts in social spending.
But on Jan. 23 Republicans wisely punted. Perhaps recalling how their 2011 debacle hurt the nation’s credit rating and economy, House leaders said they would simply “suspend” the debt ceiling, until May, while Congress works toward a new budget.
That action implicitly suggests that Republicans wanted to avoid a new showdown with President Barack Obama over the debt ceiling. He already had warned that he would not negotiate or mandate unwarranted cuts in earned entitlements and other safety net programs.
The surface technical question from their cave-in is whether the debt ceiling — if it can be suspended so easily while federal spending runs over it — is really the big legislative deal they’ve made it into since Obama replaced a free-spending, debt-ceiling-breaking Republican?
In this case, it’s essential to remember that a Republican-controlled Congress casually raised the debt ceiling seven times while George W. Bush was doubling the federal debt to finance deep tax cuts and two costly wars. Part of the Obama debt is to pay for the lingering pipeline costs of those wars and for rebuilding the military’s machinery. If debt-ceiling boundaries really are so flexible — as they must be to pay for spending already approved by Congress in earlier years — the debt ceiling mechanism should just be abandoned, and more intense focus placed on annual and long-term budgets. …
Both sides, however, now need to present a reasonable compromise. And the driver for that — the budget sequesters mandated in 2011 for across-the-board cuts — will arrive again in March. That leaves little time to waste, and no sense in putting off hard, detailed budget proposals from both sides.
Kicking this can down the road again makes no sense. It would be as meaningless as the “No budget, no pay” bill that Republican House members passed recently, despite the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that bars them from cutting their pay in the same session the legislation was passed. Such showboating must be replaced by substantive congressional action. Published in The WCP 1.31.13