President Obama on Wednesday found out what congressional leaders thought of his gimmicky “to-do” list. The country is headed over a fiscal cliff, and House Speaker John A. Boehner said the only list worth discussing would address the troubles that are going to hit by year’s end.
“We’ve spent enough time playing small ball,” Mr. Boehner told reporters before going to the White House. “Where’s the president’s plan to tackle our looming debt crisis? Where’s the budget? Where’s the president’s plan to stop the largest tax increase in American history from occurring on January the 1st? Where’s the president’s plan to replace these indiscriminate cuts to our military, which will devastate their ability to keep America secure?”
The GOP leader is doing what he can to deal with the upcoming crises. He said on Tuesday that before the election, the House will pass an extension of all current tax rates and include instruction for an expedited process for major tax reform in 2013. Washington also is likely to max out its $16.4 trillion credit line before the end of the year, although Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Summit on Tuesday that he could use accounting tricks to postpone the day of reckoning until early 2013.
Mr. Boehner, however, isn’t going to allow Democrats to wait until the last minute again and use the threat of default to boost the federal borrowing capacity. “We shouldn’t dread the debt limit,” Mr. Boehner said at the Peterson event. “As a matter of fact, I think we should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction.”
Mr. Boehner sees the debate as an opportunity to achieve cuts in proposed spending. The Ohio Republican came up with the idea last year that instead of just increasing the debt ceiling, Congress had to reduce spending by an amount equal to any increase in borrowing. The deal they struck in the 11th hour in August was to increase the debt limit by $2.1 trillion, immediately find $900 billion in offsets, then task the supercommittee with finding up to $1.5 trillion in reductions - that’s using Washington math.
According to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest projections, the net result is that fiscal 2012 spending will rise $27 billion and then fall $58 billion in the following year. Even so, we still will spend $1.2 trillion more than we take in this year, meaning we have to borrow the difference.
Democrats just want to keep spending and haven’t done anything to plan for the future. It’s as if Mr. Obama thinks anything that happens after Nov. 6 doesn’t matter. Mr. Obama has been phoning in his governing responsibilities while focusing his time and attention on getting re-elected. Mr. Boehner is right to force a conversation about how to keep Uncle Sam from falling over the fiscal cliff.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.