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MILLER: Uncle Sam’s empty cupboards

Obama is about to pour another trillion dollars down the drain

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Since summer's end, the United States has spent over $1.5 trillion - $900 billion of which was borrowed money. The cupboards are bare once again, so President Obama last week asked Congress for permission to raise the debt ceiling for the third time in six months, enabling him to spend another $1.2 trillion. This loan will be approved, but not before congressional Republicans make him sweat it.

The House will vote Wednesday on a resolution which says Congress disapproves of the president exercising the authority it gave him to increase the debt limit. House Speaker John A. Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel explained to The Washington Times, "We will highlight that the debt-limit vote is a result of the reckless, irresponsible spending binge from the Obama administration."

It's expected to pass the House and fail in the Democratic Senate. No matter what happens, the check was written, signed and dated and properly endorsed. It will be cashed.

The move was part of the three-step debt-increase process designed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during negotiations with Mr. Obama in August. "This gives a way to let people vote against it," the Kentucky Republican's spokesman Don Stewart told The Washington Times. "It also slowed the debt increase down into separate pieces instead of doing one really big one, which gives Democrats the opportunity to work with us on pay-fors." Unfortunately, congressional Democrats have shown no interest in paying off the new debt with spending cuts.

This debt-ceiling vote was supposed to happen after the supercommittee resolved how to cut spending for the additional $1.2 trillion in borrowing. However, Democrats on the committee refused to accept any real entitlement reform and would only embrace tax hikes. Republicans were left with no choice but to walk away from the table.

At least the House GOP tried to tie the debt ceiling to offsets in spending. The political establishment, however, wouldn't allow spending to shrink by the smallest amount, even though federal outlays are now 24 percent of gross domestic product.

"There may after all be something to gain from having this debate," said Patrick Louis Knudsen, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. "It reminds the public what the stakes are in all this. Although Congress missed the opportunity to fix this problem so far, at least laying out reasoned arguments in their floor statements on why this is important will get some redemption out of it."

Perhaps it will showcase what four more years of Mr. Obama will bring. Since his inauguration, the president has added $4,609,446,347,487.36 to our debt - more than doubling the spending rate of his predecessor.

Mr. Obama's deal for a $2.1 trillion debt increase was supposed to get him past the November election, but a leadership aide suggested the money might not stretch that far when the payroll-tax pay-fors are factored into the budget outlays. We may have to go through this fight all over again before the end of the year. If that's the case, Republicans should hold their ground for once and insist that the federal government stop living beyond its means.

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

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