To update an old maxim: “He who bids to run away lives to flee another day.”
This is now the congressional-Republican battle cry. When it comes to battling rampant federal spending, Republicans surrender more readily than French soldiers.
The GOP’s latest capitulation comes as the Republican-led House of Representatives votes today to give President Obama a three-month hike in the $16.4 trillion national “debt ceiling” in exchange for . . . no budget cuts.
The deal’s one small victory of sorts would require both the House and Senate to adopt budgets by April 15, or their members’ pay will be withheld. While it is nice to have the GOP House remind the Democratic Senate of its duties, it is rather thin gruel to permit even more federal borrowing, without spending restraint, as a bribe to get Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada to obey federal law, which mandates that the Senate pass a budget by April 15. Nonetheless, Reid has broken this statute in the U.S. Code thrice since the last time the Senate adopted a budget: April 29, 2009. In contrast, the GOP House has abided by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, having passed a budget in each of the last two years of Republican control.
Once again, however, Republicans plan to lead the fight to cut spending . . . next time. This has become a tiring and highly discouraging refrain. The last debt-limit fight was supposed to cut spending. That did not happen in any significant way. Instead, we were told that a supercommittee would identify trillions in budget cuts. The supercommittee proved worse than a legislative Edsel: It was not just ugly; it never got out of the driveway.
Not to worry, GOP leaders promised. The death of the supercommittee prompted the birth of the Fiscal Cliff. Faced with the prospect of tumbling off a precipice, Obama and Democrats would knuckle under, as Republicans held firm the mantle of fiscal discipline.
Obama got the tax-rate hikes on “millionaires and billionaires” that he craved like a cokehead scratching around for one more line.
Republicans got less than bupkis on spending.
No sweat, conservatives were told. The GOP held all the cards in the debt-ceiling showdown. That, finally, would be the day that the federal budget went under the knife.
I had my doubts. As I predicted on January 4:
Republicans [explain] that they caved today, to fight another day. The looming debt-ceiling battle supposedly will find them as intrepid as a Marine battalion, itching to slash spending and relimit government. Believe it when you see it. For now, free-marketeers would be lucky if Republicans donned the blue helmets of United Nations peacekeepers.
Now, once again, the GOP’s moment of courage has gotten kicked down the road, right beside the can labeled “budget cuts.”
Republicans are not even trying.
Why not attach the debt-limit measure to a 1 percent cut in the federal budget?
Why not pass a debt-ceiling increase tied to a one-year freeze in the budget?
Why not boost the debt limit for three months with language closing a dozen antiquated federal bureaus and programs?
Earth to Republicans: You control the United States House of Representatives! Pass legislation that advances fiscal conservatism. If Reid and Obama buy it, hallelujah.
If not, remind the American people exactly who is busy spending and borrowing today’s adults into economic stagnation and tomorrow’s children into debtors’ prison.
Let Reid and Obama explain why the Rural Utility Service must survive 78 years after FDR launched it in order to bring electricity to Appalachia — a mission it accomplished in the 1940s or ’50s.
Americans are hungry for budget restraint. Asked “Is government spending being managed carefully or out of control?” a January 15–17 Fox News survey found that 83 percent of registered voters responded “out of control,” up from 62 percent in April 2009. Only 11 percent replied “managed carefully,” down from 22 percent in April 2009.
In the same study, 69 percent of respondents said that the debt limit should be increased “only after major cuts.” Just 23 percent disagreed, saying it would be “reckless not to” (the margin of error was 3 percent).
All that Republicans have to do is follow the public. Why is this so hard?
Conservatives have every right to feel exasperated by Republican “leaders” who will not lead, will not try anything bold or imaginative, and display all the fortitude of over-boiled fettuccine.