The Washington Times - July 4, 2011, 04:30AM



Deja vu. Lawmakers in Washington are racing against the clock to pass another bill. The debt ceiling issue, the current crisis that caused the Senate to cancel their July 4 recess and stay in Washington to hammer out a deal (albeit behind closed doors) before the August 2 deadline, only brings back memories of the health care debate’s closed door meetings that happened when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, canceled Columbus day recess in 2009 and later threatened to cancel Christmas recess in 2010 if bills like the tax rate extension, the START treaty, and the repeal of DADT were not dealt with. 

Deadline politics is certainly nothing new, but the continuous use of looming deadlines and long recesses to produce something, no matter how horrible, is wearing.

“What I’m concerned about,” Senator John Cornyn, Texas Republican, told Fox News Sunday yesterday,”is the president by not seriously putting a proposal forward but is rather just criticizing those who have.” Mr. Cornyn then added, “We’re running up against this deadline and they’re going to try and present it as a fait de compli…nobody’s going to have time to read it and consider the implications of it, and he’s going to say you have to pass it or the economy’s going down the tubes. That’s just irresponsible.” 

The national debt is already at $14 trillion and August 2 is the Treasury department’s deadline for when the U.S. could go into default if the debt ceiling is not raised by Congress, but both political parties have different conditions for their approval to do so. Senator Cornyn hinted at a possibility for a “mini deal” with the administration, but cautioned that it would only be a temporary fix.

“The problem with a mini-deal is we have a maxi problem,” said Mr. Cornyn. “We’ll take the savings we can get now, and we will re-litigate this as we get closer to the election.”

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that over the next ten years, $4 trillion needs to be cut from the federal budget deficit. However, the GOP wants to see the cuts happen through less spending and Democrats continue to argue for revenue increases (tax hikes) and some spending reductions.

Finally, there is a concern that the administration will try to re-interpret the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and try to bypass Congress and raise the debt ceiling without the legislative branch. Senator Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court Judge, responded to such a tactic saying, “That’s crazy talk. It’s not acceptable for Congress and the president not to do their job and to say somehow the president has the authority then to basically do this by himself.”

Maybe so, but when a political deadline was looming during the healthcare debate, the last card the Democrats pulled, following the election of Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown (and the loss of the Senate Democrats’ super majority), was using budget reconciliation to pass the health care bill in the Senate, a procedure that many still argue was misapplied; however, political expediency ruled the day and like the health care bill, the debt ceiling may very well be ruled by political expediency as well.