Thursday, January 17, 2013

GOP Freshmen Explain -- Why Fight on the Debt Limit

Having averted one fiscal cliff, the GOP majority in the house now face another one -- this one tied to the debt limit authorization. Naturally, the GOP wants to get its case out there, and started with a CSPAN dog and pony show Tuesday night, featuring the Freshman GOP class of 2012. Let's look at the transcript of what they had to say:

Let's start with newly minted Congressman Luke Messer of Indiana, who wants to highlight the importance of the upcoming debt limit debate and "the need to get serious about addressing the out-of-control spending and borrowing that is jeopardizing the American Dream for our children and grandchildren"

What are the fundamental questions involved? 
The fundamental question that this Congress needs to answer is whether Washington should take more than it already does from these hardworking, taxpaying Americans?
 Um, not sure what authorizing the debt limit has to do with tax increases, but never fear, Mr. Messer is opposed to tax increases. Next up, Susan Brooks of Indiana. This is what the debt limit debate means to her:
My message today is simple: On too many big items, Congress has been kicking the can down the road for years. It's time to supply real leadership on the most pressing challenges we face. This is the only way we can restore trust in Congress.
Well, OK.  But what does that have to do with allowing the government to pay the debt? Well, because these votes are "opportunities"
We're in a position to clearly see three obvious opportunities to make real, sustainable changes. First, we know we are approaching the debt ceiling. Second, sequestration will go into effect in 2 months, and third, funding for the government will expire March 27. These are opportunities to make real changes in spending.
In other words (Obama type words, to be exact), the debt limit must be held hostage in order to make real, sustainable changes. Swell. Over to you, Jackie Walorski of Indiana:
Mr. Speaker, I want to let the people of Indiana know that in the coming weeks they'll hear many assertions in the debate over whether Congress should increase the debt ceiling. The people of Indiana deserve to hear the truth. The entire Nation deserves to hear the truth:
And what is the truth? Why must a fight on what Congress appropriates be held over whether we pay the debts we owe (as opposed by the spending we authorize)?
Each day that we delay getting our fiscal house in order, we threaten the safety and well-being of those we love and care about the most. We threaten the opportunity and promise of future generations by limiting the resources we have to invest in infrastructure and education.
All true. All beside the point raised by authorizing an increase in the debt ceiling. All of this amounts to  justification of hostage taking for the greater good. Well, maybe, someone other than a Hoosier can do this better. Congressman Robert Pittenger, please do North Carolina proud. Tell us why fighting over the Debt Limit is necessary:
Our Nation is in peril. We are threatened, not by a foreign tyrant, but by our own reckless spending. Just today, the Fitch Ratings agency warned that our AAA credit rating is at risk.
 OK. But isn't the fact that we choose fights over the debt limit -- rather than the budget -- part of the problem?
Today the Fitch Ratings agency warned that our Nation's AAA credit rating is at risk if an increase in the debt ceiling doesn't also include a credible plan for deficit reduction.
 And here, finally, we have a rationale that links GOP actions to the issue at hand!! There's only one problem. You got to ask the question -- Is it true?  Well, let's go to the Fitch press release causing the commotion:
In Fitch's opinion, the debt ceiling is an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. It does not prevent tax and spending decisions that will incur debt issuance in excess of the ceiling while the sanction of not raising the ceiling risks a sovereign default and renders such a threat incredible.
 Uh oh. If a media factchecker bothers to care what is said on the floor of Congress, he's going to start breaking out all the Pinocchios. This would be too bad, because Fitch does, sort of say what Pittenger claims:
In the absence of an agreed and credible medium-term deficit reduction plan that would be consistent with sustaining the economic recovery and restoring confidence in the long-run sustainability of U.S. public finances, the current Negative Outlook on the 'AAA' rating is likely to be resolved with a downgrade later this year even if another debt ceiling crisis is averted.
But sort of  is not good enough when the media is hostile -- something any GOP  spokesman needs to learn, and learn quickly. Fitch's concerns would be answered by a deal based on ordinary budget negotiations between the House and Senate, and they would be far happier if the debt limit were not the budget battleground.

If these are the GOP arguments going into the debt limit fight -- they are going to be in for a whipping. The GOP needs to learn to fight spending issues when they are working on spending bills.


  1. You leave this part, Alonzo, surprising;

    It is time for the same approach in Washington. We have a moral obligation to live within our means and dig our way out of debt. It won’t be easy, and it will require some tough choices. But our children and grandchildren will be paying for our free-spending ways if we don’t. A good start would be to demand that, at a minimum, any increase in the debt limit be matched dollar-for-dollar by spending reductions and include other spending reforms. The President got his tax increases. Now it is time for this Congress to tackle Washington’s spending addiction.

  2. narciso:

    I do not find the argument especially persuasive. If the spending needs to be reduced -- it is for something unworthy or exceeds a spending total Congress has set -- reduce it in regular order when doing the budget. This linkage is not inherently logical.

  3. I'd rather see the newbies' comments on sequestration than their wholly understandable but futile opposition to lifting the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling will be raised after more posturing but the sequestration battle isn't going to be resolved as easily and the most vicious fighting will occur upon expiry of the continuing resolution at the end of March.

  4. Rick:

    They did not take on the sequester Tuesday night. My guess is that conversation does not really begin, until the debt limit is disposed of in some way or other. The Dems don't want to talk about spending, so they will talk about everything else as long as they can. And the GOP, by staging the battle on amounts already appropriated, are giving them the opportunity.

    The GOP does not lead by fighting futile battles for the benefit of people who just like fights. They lead by concentrating on the battles that are meaningful.