During the fight over the FY 2011 budget in 2011, conservatives were told to stand down and wait for the debt ceiling. At that point, “we would begin to cut trillions,” promised GOP leaders. They wound up caving on the debt ceiling in return for nothing. Then they said we would fight for the FY 2012 budget. Well, once we agreed to lock in the Obama spending levels under the Budget [Out of Control] Act, we had no grounds to fight then either.
FY 2013 followed the same narrative. We were told to shirk from a budget fight last year because we were supposed to win the election, and exert more influence later on. Well, we lost the election, and the rest is history. Once we lost the election, we supposedly had no leverage to fight on the tax issue, but ‘wait oh wait’ until the debt ceiling and we’ll take their lunch money.
Now there are already signs that they are going to ask conservatives to defer the fight until – you guessed it – the next CR. Politico has their own agenda, but their observation from interviews with Boehner’s staff sounds all too familiar:
Boehner won’t say this to his members, but Republicans who know him well believe he will never allow default, even if it puts his leadership position at risk. Remember, raising the debt limit requires a House vote, so it is possible Boehner could face a choice of allowing a vote that a majority of his members would oppose, which he has promised not to do — or allowing default.
Sommers, his chief of staff, and others are searching for ways to delay that life-or-death choice or convince members that a government shutdown is sufficiently dramatic to make their stand.
The 2013 continuing appropriations resolution expires on March 27, cutting off funding for most federal agencies. It needs to be extended, and Republicans don’t want to do so unless a new continuing resolution reduces spending, too.
This is where they could choose to shut down the government to dramatize their contention that for four years Obama has promised in words to cut spending but in action only piled up debt. Many Republicans believe this is precisely what they will do.
When we come to the point that $2.1 trillion in new debt is expended in just 17 months, we have run out of time. Instead of blithely ignoring the debt ceiling, we should lower the spending floor.
The administration and some Republicans are propagating a false choice between permanently raising the debt ceiling or defaulting on our credit. It’s designed to create another political cliff, in the hopes of shielding their spending binge from imperative reforms. The real answer is to lower the spending floor.
We all know that the Treasury takes in enough tax revenue to cover about 60% of the federal budget. Only the remaining portion must be serviced by debt. We will only default on our credit if we stop paying interest to the creditors. Interest on our debt accounts for just 6% of the federal budget. There’s no reason why we should not force Congress to lower the spending floor to meet the tax revenue by prioritizing our payments. These payments would include interest on the debt, Social Security checks, wages for military personnel, and other vital programs. The discretionary departments and welfare will just have to wait until Democrats are willing to pass something like Cut, Cap, Balance or free market entitlement reform.
Pat Toomey authored such a bill in 2011, along with RSC members in the House. This legislation would smoke out Democrats for their duplicity on the issue of default. They should pass the Full Faith and Credit Act now, and let Democrats go on record as opposing the only method that will responsibly avoid default while lowering the spending floor until we force through a plan that will balance the budget.
At some point, we won’t have the luxury of waiting until next time to fight for limited government. The time to fight is now.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project