House and Senate conservatives rallied Wednesday around a pledge to vote against any debt-ceiling increase that fails to include enforceable reductions in the size of the federal government. The "Cut, Cap, Balance" pledge to put Uncle Sam on a diet includes cuts in outlays, caps on future spending authority and passage of a balanced-budget amendment that would limit taxing and spending.
The first day's effort has been encouraging. Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, has 10 colleagues on board. He'll need another 30 to block a bad deal. "Let's see Democrats and President Obama try and explain that they want to shut down government because they refuse to balance our budget," Mr. DeMint told The Washington Times. "The American people won't stand for it. Now is the time to fight."
The House conservatives' Republican Study Committee (RSC) came up with Cut, Cap, Balance to restrict spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product. Rep. Jim Jordan, the RSC chairman, told The Washington Times that his group "put the ball on the field" and "with this pledge, conservatives in the House, Senate and all across the country have now picked it up and begun to run with it." There are 42 grass-roots groups coordinating efforts to promote the issue around the country, including Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express and Let Freedom Ring.
Many inside and outside the Beltway are skeptical of closed-door leadership negotiations after being let down by April's continuing resolution in which a promised $100 billion in cuts ultimately failed to yield any real savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this year's spending is already $132 billion higher than last year's.
They also lack faith in politicians sticking to spending caps beyond the next election, which is why the pledge seeks to amend the Constitution. "We agree we need immediate spending cuts, caps and entitlement reform, but that's exactly what Washington did in the '90s when we were $5 trillion in debt," Mr. DeMint told The Times. "Now Gramm-Rudman is ignored, the entitlement reforms never materialized, and debt has exploded to over $14 trillion. Americans won't be fooled again; they know none of these grand promises will ever happen unless we force Washington to do it with a balanced-budget amendment."
For the "Cut, Cap, Balance" pledge to work, more members will have to sign on to it in the next couple of weeks. With a big push from the Tea Party and related groups, that could happen. Americans sent an unmistakable message in November that business as usual was over. The debt-limit deal is the last opportunity this year for Republican leaders inside the Beltway to prove they're serious about shrinking our out-of-control federal leviathan.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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