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MILLER: Debt-talk endgame

Balanced Budget Amendment is the last hope for conservatives

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Congressional leaders will continue to attend debt-ceiling negotiations, but it's just for show. The talks are effectively over. President Obama delivered an ultimatum to Republicans: Accept tax hikes and smoke-and-mirror spending cuts or default on America's debt obligations.

In Monday's White House meeting, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked Mr. Obama's budget director, Jack Lew, how much the deal on the table would cut discretionary spending next year. Mr. Lew responded, "$2 billion." That's a mere 0.3 percent cut overall. With the purported Aug. 2 default deadline around the corner, a deal acceptable to conservatives is not going to happen.

Mr. McConnell on Tuesday responded to this sham deal by offering a "backup plan" he thinks would put the onus of default back on Mr. Obama. The Kentucky Republican proposed that the president be granted three short-term installments of clean borrowing increases to get through the end of his term.

Letting the federal government keep growing ad infinitum during this period is simply unacceptable. The best thing that conservatives can salvage out of this debacle is to capture the moment by rallying public support for the Balanced Budget Amendment scheduled for votes in the House and Senate next week.

Republican lawmakers are on board, but they can't do it alone. "Senate Republicans will be on the floor next week advocating a Balanced Budget Amendment to require us to live within our means," Mr. McConnell said Tuesday. "All 47 Senate Republicans are behind that proposal and, we have to attract enough Democrats to pass it."

In the House, 48 Democrats would need to support the plan, assuming all GOP members fall in line. House Speaker John A. Boehner on Monday said that "my colleagues and I believe we should enact a Balanced Budget Amendment to keep the federal government from spending us into the same situation again."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted that won't happen. "It has no support in our caucus," the California Democrat told The Washington Times. "Overwhelmingly it will be opposed by our caucus. ... I'm very much opposed to it. Of all the balanced budget resolution amendments that I've seen, this is by far the worst. This is the Republicans' way of putting forth the Ryan budget once again, which will eliminate Medicare."

The Democrats want to increase the federal government's credit line by $2 trillion without any strings attached. Their recklessness could prove to be their fatal misstep going into the 2012 elections. Congress and the president have proved incapable of spending our money responsibly.

An overwhelming majority of Americans want an intervention in the form of a binding restriction that puts a stop to future expenditure binges. Standing firm on principle now will show voters the importance of evicting the spending addict inhabiting the White House.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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