Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah have joined forces to advocate a compelling solution to the next major legislative battle over raising the national debt ceiling. Both lawmakers are demanding that any vote to increase the debt ceiling be conditioned on amending the United States Constitution to require that Congress balance the budget. This is not just a sensible permanent solution to our current fiscal crisis, it is a political winner. Republicans, conservatives, and tea party activists should examine the implications of this proposal and begin the grassroots campaign to ensure the outcome.
One of the most important legislative battles this year will be over how -- or whether -- to increase the nation's debt ceiling. It is no secret that our country is careening towards an economic cliff of monstrous proportions. With news of the Congressional Budget Office's recent projections - that the single-year deficit for FY-2011 will reach nearly $1.5 trillion - one cannot help but feel a mounting sense of urgency. Indeed, The Heritage Foundation's budget analysis projects permanent yearly deficits of between $1 and $2 trillion dollars as far as the eye can see.
On January 4, 2011, the federal debt surpassed the incomprehensible number of $14 trillion and is expected to reach its current limit of $14.3 trillion sometime in March of this year. This coming battle will quite possibly be the most important debate of 2011. Recent polling suggests that Americans believe that the federal debt and deficit crisis ranks equally with terrorism as the gravest threat to our national security.
Some, including many who identify with the tea party movement, are clamoring to outright defeat any attempt to raise the national debt limit. There are completely legitimate arguments as to why this approach is a reasonable one. However, adopting this policy-purist position on this issue and at this time may not be the best approach to permanently resolving our debt and deficit problems.
An alternative to the "defeat at all cost" approach is to tie any attempt to increase the debt ceiling to a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A balanced budget amendment which favors spending reduction over tax increases has long been the Holy Grail of fiscal hawks. It was a cornerstone proposal of the GOP's 1994 Contract With America. Ken Blackwell proposed the solution in a blog entry at The Patriot Post on December 30, 2010. Mr. Blackwell's proposal was echoed on this page on January 6. Now, Senators DeMint and Lee have officially voiced support for the proposal. According to an email sent by DeMint detailing the initiative, his amendment would require a two-thirds supermajority of Congress to raise taxes, prevent Congress from spending more than 20 percent of the national GDP, and require a balanced budget.
As I wrote on January 6, tying a vote on the debt ceiling to a balanced budget amendment would be a win-win situation:
What voter will disagree with requiring Congress to balance its budget? Even liberals want a balanced budget – the disagreement is really over how to do it. Since the public will balk at any proposal that significantly increases tax rates, a balanced budget amendment will force Congress to reduce spending. What has happened in many states that are prohibited by law from borrowing to fund their operations, will have to happen in Congress.
If a balanced budget amendment is attached to raising the debt ceiling, the bill will either pass and the amendment will go to the states for ratification (where it will surely succeed), or it will fail and the failure will be at the hands of Democrats in Congress. Either way, it is a victory for the GOP, and especially for conservatives.
Conservatives need to achieve a major policy victory out of this debate. If a balanced budget amendment is attached to a law raising the debt ceiling, such a victory is guaranteed. Obama and liberals will either be forced to oppose the policy objective of balanced budgets (and thus be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt as rank hypocrites), or they will be responsible for whatever happens if the debt ceiling is not raised.
Read the original post here.
We ought to support Senators DeMint and Lee in this effort. If successful, conservatives would exchange a temporary continuation of deficit spending for a permanent (and much needed) solution to the historic problem of out-of-control debt, deficits, and spending.
This is a solution that deserves immediate grassroots mobilization in support.