If the government ends up defaulting on its debt obligations, President Obama will have no one to blame but himself. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives will hold the first vote on legislation that would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and avoid all of the dire consequences that would follow if the Treasury decided to skip paying its bills.
In return for the big increase in borrowing authority, the Cut, Cap and Balance Act extracts a serious price. It requires fiscal restraints which Mr. Obama rejects. “Neither setting arbitrary spending levels nor amending the Constitution is necessary to restore fiscal responsibility,” the White House said in an official veto threat Monday.
Until now, the debt talks in Washington have been just that - talks. While the House GOP is putting a legitimate offer on the table, Mr. Obama has only responded by calling for a “comprehensive and balanced framework.” A vague set of talking points is not legislation. The vote on the House bill will likely be close, especially in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The House bill was proposed by the Republican Study Committee (RSC) as a concrete alternative for conservatives and has been altered to attract broader support. RSC’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, told The Washington Times that, “Cut, Cap and Balance is a very real effort to cut spending and force Washington to balance its budget, which is the only way we’ll ever get the debt under control.” It would reduce outlays by $111 billion from the March baseline presented by the Congressional Budget Office out of a staggering $3.6 trillion in projected spending.
The “cap and balance” parts will have the real impact. Over the next 10 years, the bill ties the maximum amount of federal spending to 21.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, slowly dropping to 19.9 percent in 2021. Mr. Obama has spent a whopping 24 percent of GDP. Automatic triggers would cut spending if the caps are breached. Most importantly, the debt ceiling would only rise after both houses of Congress send a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states for ratification. “This is the only plan out there that actually solves our debt problem,” said Mr. Jordan.
It’s a breath of fresh air to have Congress take the debt issue out of the backrooms of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and discuss the issue in an open floor debate. The public is behind the concept of a balanced budget and needs to hear the Democrats stubbornly clinging to the tax-and-spend mentality that got us into this problem in the first place. Their position is reckless and indefensible. Cut, Cap and Balance prevents a government shutdown and preserves America’s credit rating. If Mr. Obama follows through with his threat to veto this proposal, the blame for whatever happens next will be on him.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.