The Budget and Debt-Limit EndgamesBy Mike Razar
There is nothing so insidious as a lie which persists without rebuttal long enough to be accepted as true (with all due apologies to ideas whose time has come). The current budget and debt crises in Washington provide plenty of examples. The lies have all originated among the Democrats and their sycophants in the media.
Begin with the most obvious. For weeks and continuing now, the suspension of a few government functions has been described as a wanton act of "shutting down the government. " In fact, hardly anything is shut down. The main examples are the temporary closings of national parks, museums, and monuments. As we move deeper into the lack of appropriations, certain more serious outlays turn out to be threatened. The most serious so far has to do with a clinical trial involving childhood cancer victims.
Stupid Lie 1: Pro-choice Harry Reid claims that Republicans don't care about dying children.
Obvious Truth 1: Nobody wants children to die outside the womb. In a "clean vote. " there is unanimous support for research on childhood cancer.
Poor Harry Reid! Trying to engage in a game of "gotcha," his own words betrayed him. His attempt to paint Republicans who won't vote his way as not caring about sick children backfired. He sounded as if he was the one who doesn't care. Now I think we can all stipulate that nobody in Congress opposes the spending on research into cancer. They all love the children. It was stupid and clumsy of Reid to suggest otherwise. To be effective, a lie has to have some bit of plausibility. Harry Reid is a terrible person, a totally unprincipled politician. But the goal is to improve the political process, not to win a street fight with Harry.
Big Lie 1: The Democrat point of view is that whenever a continuing resolution comes up for a vote, every member of Congress is morally obligated to support it with a "clean" vote, free of any amendments.
Big Truth 1: Continuing resolutions are the source of the problem. Appropriations are supposed to be examined individually, not rubber-stamped as part of a single "must pass" bill.
Republican members of Congress seem to have stumbled into a winning strategy. This more serious strategy is for the House of Representatives to keep passing small appropriation bills to re-open parks, monuments, etc. and to fund the NIH and other popular programs. Pretty much any appropriation outside of Obamacare and salaries for senior officials, elected or not, is a good candidate for such a bill. No doubt the Reid Senate will reject most of these but that will put the Democrats squarely on record voting against the funding of things the public likes. They will defend these votes as merely being against "piecemeal appropriations. " Here is where the Republicans can answer with a sharp attack on the very concept of continuing resolutions.
These continuing resolutions only come about because Reid refused to pass a budget for four years and passed a ridiculous budget this year. Appropriations are supposed to be voted on piecemeal so that current members can decide if old laws still deserve to be funded. This is a feature of the Constitution, not a bug! It is an essential part of checks and balances. Repeated use of these continuing resolutions delays the housecleaning function and trash builds up. This is not a subtle argument. The Public can grasp it easily. What Reid and his henchmen are whining about is actually an attempt by Republicans to restore regular order to the appropriations process. The truth is and the talking point should be that Obama and Reid are the ones holding the government hostage to a bill with thousands of appropriations and not a single one they are even willing to discuss.
Big Lie 2: Obamacare is the law of the land, having been passed, declared constitutional, and survived a presidential election. Any attempt to change it by not appropriating current funding is an attack on democracy itself.
Big Truth 2: Really, this is just a special case of Big Lie 1, albeit a huge one. No law is or should ever be immune from being revisited during the appropriations process. Obamacare may have survived a presidential election but not 435 Congressional elections. Democrats love to cherry pick their facts.
As pointed out in the previous paragraphs, each Congress is obligated to re-examine major appropriations to see if they continue to make sense. The truth is that funding for Obamacare would not survive the constitutionally correct process of a clean up or down vote. How nice it is for the Democrats to choose the content of the bills they consider essential to pass by including every appropriation in a single bill. That is the true attack on democracy.
Let us review what has transpired so far. Senator Cruz and the House Republican caucus began by trying to defund Obamacare by removing it from the continuing resolution. Senate Democrats refused to accept that. But they did accept a stand-alone appropriation to pay military salaries. That set the precedent. I sure didn't see it coming, but once I saw it happen, all the rest became clear as far as appropriations go. I would pay for a front row seat at an Obama speech defending his veto of the NIH funding for childhood cancer research.
It would be a tremendous victory if the end result of the budget fight were an end to governing by continuing resolutions. The important point to make over and over is that a "clean" continuing resolution is not good government. It is a total abdication of the duty of Congress to oversee federal spending and only to fund vetted and approved activities. Previously passed "laws of the land" must be reviewed regularly before continuing to fund them. That means reviewing Obamacare spending too. That turns the table on the Democrats while setting the stage for a full frontal attack on funding for Obamacare next year without the threat of a partial shutdown of the rest of the government.
With this victory under their belts, the Republicans could go for another one on the debt limit. If the White House and Treasury Departments were occupied by honorable men or women, there would never be a risk of default caused by not increasing the debt limit.
Big Lie 3: Not raising the debt limit causes a default on the debt, threatening catastrophe.
Big Truth 3: This lie is so big, so monstrous, and so often repeated, that it calls into question either the mental ability or (more likely) the integrity of everyone who repeats it. Sadly, even many conservative pundits seem to think that failure to raise the debt limit is tantamount to default. Even Fox news reporters carelessly conflate raising the debt limit and not defaulting. Somebody should point that out to them. They ignore ordinary folks, so maybe some celebrity reader of AT could do it. The truth is that default can only occur if the President orders the Secretary of the Treasury to refuse to make interest and principal payments from current revenue.
Of course an actual default would be a disaster. However, there is enough money received by the government every month to cover current interest payments five to ten times over. This is a well-known fact and has been cited by numerous authorities. Any maturing debt can be re-issued without piercing the current limit. There is a slight cash-flow management issue in the form of possible day or two delays between interest payments due and revenue received by the Treasury. That should be dealt with by having the Treasury Department (by law) set aside a small cash reserve in advance to cover a month or two of interest payments. Just about every private business in the world does that, if it can.
Earlier this year, the House Republicans tried to codify this procedure by passing a bill (HR 807), "The Full Faith and Credit Act" that was dismissed as a "Pay China First" policy by the Democrats in Congress. It was unanimously rejected by the Senate Democrats. One could hardly construct a more brazen hypocrisy. On the one hand, Democrats scream about the horrors of default. The President himself says that a default could bring down the world economy. Yet apparently, if funds were not available to spend on approved items, the first thing to skip would be interest payments to China. I guess that isn't what the President means when he speaks of default.
This suggests an endgame for the debt limit "crisis. " Attach HR 807 or something similar to a bill to increase the debt limit. If the Senate or the President rejects this, it will be clear to one and all which party is using the threat of default as an irresponsible political weapon. Granted, this doesn't get much for the Republican agenda right away. But with HR807 in place, the default card would be gone forever. That would be a spectacular victory for Republicans and the American people. The talking point is that nobody should be allowed to threaten default on the debt again. My only question is why the Republicans have been so quiet about HR807.
These two great achievements on spending and the debt should pave the way for a sweeping electoral victory in 2014. Will Republicans even try these strategies? It is not very likely. They are so beaten down by the mainstream media that I doubt they are even aware of the powerful cards they hold.
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