The Corner

Conservatives and the Debt-Limit Showdown

It may be true that the Boehner plan is sound, and it would be a great victory for the Republican side.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that conservative opponents of the plan should back down.  Krauhammer’s argument cuts both ways.  Krauthammer thinks that what’s at stake here is a historic confrontation between European-style social democracy and limited-government conservatism.  He argues that such an argument can only be won at the polls, and that we’re only halfway there, so we should settle for the Beohner plan and look to 2012.  

“Under our incremental system,” he writes, “a rebuke delivered is not a mandate conferred.” He’s right, but Republican control of the House of Representatives is more than a “rebuke delivered.”  They control the money.  All spending bills must originate in the House.  Elections have consequences.  And one of the consequences of the 2010 election is that people who firmly believe that limited government and economic freedom must win out over European-style social-democracy elected a lot people who now can block spending.  And the federal explosion in taxing, borrowing, and spending is perhaps their biggest grievance. 

In Texas, a bill was proposed in the recent Legislature that would have made it a criminal offense for TSA agents to grope passengers’ private parts.  The federal government informed the Texas Legislature that if the bill were passed, it would have to pull all the TSA agents and all the airports in Texas would have to shut down.  

The federal government was right to assert that it could shut down all the airports in Texas — the Supremacy Clause leaves no doubt about that.  But would they really have won that showdown? I assumed so at first, but have come to think not.  Shutting down all the airports in Texas would have been painful for Texas, but it would also have snarled traffic across the country.  It is highly unlikely that the Obama administration would snarl airline traffic across the country in defense of a system that everybody hates.  

Nobody wanted to snarl traffic across the country, but Texas should have stood its ground.  The Obama administration would almost certainly have had to back down, and people across the country would have cheered.  

In the current debate over the debt limit, 

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