- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2011

Debt-ceiling plans are growing like weeds in the Washington heat wave - and dying off just as fast. In a striking reversal Thursday, Sen. Tom Coburn said the “Gang of Six” plan wouldn’t pass before the federal government default that the administration insists is right around the corner.

The Oklahoma Republican’s participation in the bipartisan group of senators that crafted the milquetoast deficit-reduction proposal had been central to its chances of success. On Thursday, Mr. Coburn said he retreated to his previous position in support of “Cut, Cap, and Balance” because it is the only bill “that has passed the House and will raise the debt limit. It’s the only one that has a chance of meeting the Aug. 2 deadline.”

Senate Republicans initially intended to press for a floor vote Saturday on the House-passed bill. Democratic leaders insist that the measure won’t get any of the support it needs from their members. “Republicans’ so-called Cut, Cap, and Balance plan doesn’t have one chance in a million of passing the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, called it “a waste of time.”

By evening, Mr. Reid had realized a public debate on this popular approach to limiting government spending would be a disaster for Democrats. So he arranged for a vote on shutting down Cut, Cap, and Balance on Friday morning.

This bill would cut some spending in 2012, set spending caps as a percentage of gross domestic product in the next years, and require a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution passed by both chambers. President Obama says he would veto this approach, but not everyone takes the threat seriously.

“The president said he’d never take a short-term increase,” said Mr. Coburn. “What did they say yesterday? They’d take a short-term increase. That’s how good his veto threat is. I’ll bet you a porter house steak if this lands on his desk, he’ll sign this puppy.”

Congressional leaders continue to negotiate with Mr. Obama on a “big deal.” The McConnell-Reid concept of giving Mr. Obama trillions in new spending authority without spending cuts remains as “Plan B.” Yet only one piece of legislation to raise the debt ceiling has passed the House and sits on the Senate floor - Cut, Cap and, Balance. This is the best possible deal that can be had to resolve America’s fiscal crisis.

Mr. Reid’s move to shut off public debate shows Democrats know this is an approach most Americans would get behind if they knew about it. Perhaps if it lands on the desk in the Oval Office, even Mr. Obama’s autopen would be hard-pressed not to sign it.