Tea party floats its debt plan

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, listens as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The next step in the weeks-long saga over how to increase the government’s borrowing cap is to let House tea party forces try it their way.

A Republican “cut, cap and balance” plan set for a House vote Tuesday would condition a $2.4 trillion increase in the so-called debt limit on an immediate $100 billion-plus cut from next year’s budget and adoption by Congress of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget.

“Let’s let the American people decide,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on “Fox News Sunday.” ”Do they want something common sense as cutting spending, capping the growth in government and requiring a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution?”

The idea appears to be to allow tea party-backed GOP lawmakers to have the run of Congress this week in hopes that they’ll ultimately be able to stomach a plan emerging in the Senate to give President Barack Obama sweeping power to order a $2.5 trillion increase in the debt limit without approval by Congress.

The cut, cap and balance plan, however, is a dead letter with Obama and in the Democratic-controlled Senate — as is a separate effort by Republicans in that chamber to adopt a balanced budget amendment. Amending the Constitution requires a 2/3rds vote of both Houses, including 67 votes in the Senate, where Republicans control just 47.

“No one believes there are 67 votes for any version of that,” said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”

Public opinion polls show that voters like the idea of a balanced budget, but the government faces such massive budget gaps — it now borrows more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends — that the cuts required to eliminate the deficit were too draconian for even the GOP-dominated House to endorse balancing the budget anytime soon. The House Republican budget still leaves deficits in the $400 billion range after 10 years.

The immediate issue is allowing the government to continue to borrow from investors and foreign countries like China to pay its bills — which include a $23 billion batch of Social Security checks set to go out the day after an Aug. 2 deadline to avoid default.

With the deadline just over two weeks away and with a recent round of White House talks failing to generate a breakthrough, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the cagey leader of his party in the Senate, has proposed a plan that would allow Obama to automatically win a large enough increase in the debt to keep the government afloat until 2013 unless both House and Senate override him by veto-proof margins.

McConnell’s plan has political advantages but has come under assault from many conservatives eager to take advantage of the current opportunity to use the need to lift the debt ceiling to force deficit cuts now. But Republicans refuse to consider any tax revenue increases demanded by Obama and Democrats to balance any budget package, and Democrats won’t go along with significant cuts to benefits programs like Medicare and Medicaid unless tax increases on the wealthy are a part of the package.

“It’s not fair to ask senior citizens to pay a price, to ask families paying for their college educations, for their children to pay a price, but to leave the most privileged out of the bargain,” said Jacob Lew, the White House budget director, on ABC’s “This Week.” ”Everything has to be on the table.”

That leaves lawmakers well short of the $2 trillion-plus in deficit cuts required to offset a debt increase that’s big enough to solve the problem through next year’s elections. A sense of futility has pervaded White House talks since Boehner abandoned hopes for a “grand bargain” with Obama a week ago Saturday, prompting McConnell to come out with his plan. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is on board but wants to add a plan to create yet another deficit panel, comprised entirely of lawmakers and evenly divided between the two parties, that would try to break the deadlock by the end of the year.

It’s also expected that a package of spending cuts, perhaps in the $1.5 trillion range over the coming decade, would be attached to the McConnell-Reid measure, perhaps in the House.

For now, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is standing behind his tea partiers. But he seems open to the McConnell idea.

“The cut, cap and balance plan that the House will vote on next week is a solid plan for moving forward,” Boehner told reporters Friday. “Let’s get through that vote, and then we’ll make decisions about what will come after.”

For its part, the White House continues to press in public for a large-scale bargain. But it’s obviously open to the McConnell plan.

“There’s multiple tracks that are being discussed,” Lew said. “It’s not a given how we get to raising the debt limit.”

12 Responses to "Tea party floats its debt plan"

  1. b mcclellan  July 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    The only sense I can make out of all the to and fro is they are essentially saying,

    You’ve got the bag of money, it’s our turn to hold it.. Boogers..

  2. b mcclellan  July 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I just read what Mitch drive it in the ditch McConnell said today and my head is exploding.
    Has he ever been jabbed in the ass with a pitchfork ?

    • Almandine  July 18, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      I thought that’s what made him squeal this way…

      • b mcclellan  July 18, 2011 at 10:18 pm

        Pork bellies, don’t mess.

  3. woody188  July 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    I like Ron Paul’s idea of forcing the Fed to destroy it’s $1.6 trillion in US Treasury debt bonds as a better option than anything else I’ve heard. It would at least provide more time for a real solution versus these knee jerk reactions to throw out our checks and balances and create a virtual dictatorship ala the McConnell plan.

    • Almandine  July 18, 2011 at 11:00 pm

      A Winner!

      • Carl Nemo  July 19, 2011 at 12:29 am

        Creditors rarely if ever forgive debt without getting their pound of flesh. Bernanke’s shadowy controllers will never allow it to happen. : |

        Paul’s Rx is a good one, but it’s so radical that no one will accept the idea. They can’t wait for him to exit Congress and also to lose his next bid for election then hopefully hightail it back to Texas never to be heard from again.

        Carl Nemo **==

        • griff  July 19, 2011 at 6:45 am

          Plenty of flesh in Washington, fattened all these years devouring the productive class.

          More taxes! The Beast needs its sustenance! It needs to feed…

        • woody188  July 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm

          After our $13 trillion bail out bonanza the least they could do is forgive us this paltry $1.6 trillion. :)

          • Almandine  July 19, 2011 at 9:21 pm

            It is OUR money, after all.

  4. eve  July 19, 2011 at 9:38 am

    It still comes down to the American citizen is getting “yanked” around again by those who are supposed to represent the very people they continually deceive.

    Strong words?
    Merely an observation.

    It’s like a bad soap opera that actually DOES have an effect on your life.

  5. Pondering_It_All  July 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    “A solid plan for moving forward” Boehner is so full of crap: The “Tea Party plan” is going absolutely nowhere, and everybody knows it. Even the Republicans in the Senate would vote against it if they thought it had any chance of passing. (Social Security & Medicare are still “third rail” deadly to touch!)

    The House Republicans need to stop their masturbatory fantasies and think about reality. They only control one of the houses of Congress, so however the default is to be avoided it has to pass in the Senate and not get vetoed.

    Time to quit posing for the Fox News cameras, and pass something real.

Comments are closed.