There were three viable competing debt ceiling legislative proposals bubbling to the surface in Congress: (1) Cut, Cap and Balance, (2) the so-called “gang of six” bill, and (3) the Reid-McConnell bill. Here’s a recap.
Cut, Cap and Balance: This bill called for substantial “cuts” in spending, spending “caps” based on historical spending levels as a percent of GDP and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. This bill passed the House of Representatives on July 20. The Senate voted to table the bill: a lost opportunity.
The Gang of Six Proposal: Part of this proposal calls for “enacting a comprehensive deficit reduction plan….” It is not a plan but a set of “talking points.” Because there are no consequences for failure to meet deficit savings, there are no incentives to succeed. This bill cannot pass the House without more specificity.
The Reid-McConnell Proposal: Reid-McConnell proposed a complex plan that would let Obama raise the debt limit himself without requiring spending cuts or requiring Republicans to cast votes to lift the cap. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that Congress cannot delegate its legislative authority to the Executive branch. This bill cannot pass the House as outlined.
This is a “political scrum.” Beneath the scrum are confusion, noise and misdirection. The Democrats cling to their position of increased taxes and increased spending. The Republicans hold fast to their position of no tax-rate increases and substantial spending cuts. Obama repeatedly has stated he will not sign a short-term deal … until this week, when he changed his mind.
Last Friday, Speaker John Boehner discontinued discussions with President Obama when the latter “moved the goal posts” by demanding an additional $400 billion in tax increases. It was a deal breaker for Republicans.
Neither the Democrats nor Obama have offered any plan at any time during these discussions. Only the Republicans have offered a plan. The Senate refused to discuss it. Then the imperial president ordered Congressional leaders to his office the next day, where “they have to explain to me how it is we are going to avoid default.”
The last time I checked the Constitution, Congress, the Executive and the Supreme Court were co-equal branches of government. Obama could have had an agreement but for his incredible inexperience and egregiously avaricious demand. It blew up in his face. He is not King Obama. There is a reason we historically have addressed our presidents as “Mister President.”
Obama has suddenly made himself irrelevant. His poll numbers are falling. In his press conference, he looked childishly petulant. He needs to go to his room and let Congressional adults work the solution.
Back to the “gang of six” proposal. The plus side: it is bi-partisan. The downside: it lacks detail and accountability. This can be fixed. This proposal must contain $4 trillion in cuts to be credible and avert a downgrade. Another framework could be the Cut and Cap minus the balanced Budget Amendment proposal. Either proposal will need months to complete but are doable if the Democrats are willing to compromise on spending cuts. The Republicans have already compromised on $800 billion in revenue enhancements that are still on the table.
A short-term deal will have to be reached to bridge the Aug. 2nd date regardless of the basis of the framework. Congressional leaders have already called in their rules experts. The framework may be announced before this column appears.
If it doesn’t happen, President Obama and the Democrats will forever own the history of default and/or credit downgrading.
The dilemma with “playing chicken” is knowing when to blink.
Richard Brinkley is a member of the non-partisan Pinal County Citizens for Excellence in Government as well as the SaddleBrooke Republican Club.