The US government has a spending problem. The nation is over $16 trillion in debt. Federal spending must be brought under control to reduce the deficit, reduce the size of the government, and move toward a balanced budget. The Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled Senate are committed to higher taxes, higher spending, and the government taking an ever-higher share of the US economy. This has got to stop. The House Republican majority are the ones who can stop it.
The House Republicans must use the power of the majority to pass a Republican agenda that controls spending. We cannot let another opportunity slip by with no gain. We are running out of leverage. Now it’s time to deliver.
This was the plan: In January, Republican Leadership told the rank and file that the time wasn’t right to leverage the Debt Limit for spending cuts or entitlement reforms. President Obama had just been re-elected, they said, and Republicans didn’t have the political capital to invest in such a struggle. Instead, they had a plan to eventually lead Republicans to a point where we could leverage the Debt Limit to pass laws that would balance the budget within ten years.
While many conservatives followed the plan, I was skeptical that leadership would fight for a balanced budget when the time came.
There were five negotiating points coming before Congress, five opportunities where we had leverage to negotiate:
1) The Debt Limit
2) The Sequester
3) The Continuing Resolution
4) The Budget
5) The Debt Limit, again, when the first increase expired
Here is how the House Republican Leadership’s plan went:
Step 1: We were to raise the Debt Limit without any spending cuts, but include a “no budget, no pay” provision. (I voted “No”.)
Step 2: We were to let the President’s Sequester take effect unless the President gave up on his ideological commitment to tax increases. (No vote was taken; the Sequester took effect.)
Step 3: We were to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for six months at post-Sequester levels of spending. (I voted “No”.)
Step 4: We were to pass the Paul Ryan Budget with cuts or reforms that would lead to a balanced budget within ten years. (I voted “Yes”.)
Step 5: We were to leverage the upcoming Debt Limit to negotiate for “spending cuts or reforms that lead to a balanced budget within ten years.” (This step is still coming.)
And here is how the plan has worked thus far:
Step 1: In fact, the legislation eliminated the Debt Limit and replaced it with a date (May 19) when the Treasury could no longer borrow. So, the Treasury could sell limitless bonds until May 19. As anyone could have guessed, without a Debt Limit, the Treasury is using all of its tools to go well beyond May 19.
Step 2: The President’s Sequester has gone into effect. Republicans were in favor of rebalancing the spending cuts across all federal spending rather heaping the pain on discretionary spending (defense, FAA, etc.). The President chose to heap the pain to push for tax increases even though current tax revenues are higher than ever.
Step 3: The House passed the CR to enable “spending as usual” for another six months.
Step 4: The House passed the Ryan Budget, but it is just a roadmap with no force of law. The real determinant of the effective budget is the series of tax and spending laws passed and signed over time. In short, this vote was only for show unless we take action in Step 5.
Step 5: The Debt Limit suspension will end requiring yet another vote to increase it. This is our opportunity to pass a Republican agenda controlling spending with the force of law.
Here’s how I voted and why:
I voted against Step 1, the Debt Limit suspension, because we need to control spending and this bill did not. I also believed the “no budget, no pay” provision would entice the Senate to pass an unbalanced Harry Reid Budget that promised more taxes, more spending, and more deficits. It did. Additionally, I believed “no budget, no pay” violated the 27th Amendment, which precludes changing congressional pay until the next election “shall have intervened.” This first step passed without my support.
I could not support the Continuing Resolution because it continued the funding of Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, and other objectionable things. This passed without my support.
I was hesitant to support the Paul Ryan Budget because I didn’t agree with its economic growth assumptions and it continues to grow federal spending, although at a much lesser rate. On the positive side, it repealed Obamacare, block granted Medicaid, created premium support for Medicare, and balanced in ten years. In the end, I voted for the Ryan Budget.
On the path to arrive at this point, many conservative Members of the House, including freshmen, voted for the Debt Limit suspension (Step 1) and the Continuing Resolution (Step 3) believing that Republican Leadership would take them into a battle for a balanced budget. Now it’s time to deliver.
Now is the moment of truth. Now is the time to bring spending under control. Will Republican Leadership take us in the direction they promised, or will they demonstrate that they misled many conservatives into voting against their consciences? Now it’s time for real spending cuts in exchange for agreeing any concessions on a Debt Limit.
Will Leadership lead? If my guess is correct, I will be very glad that I voted my conscience all along.
Jim Bridenstine represents the first district in Oklahoma.