House Speaker John Boehner takes his case to the people in a new video today responding to the veto threat to the Cut-Cap-Balance bill on which the House will vote today. The key sticking point is the condition that Congress vote to approve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution that will set spending restraints “in stone” in exchange for a raise in the debt-limit ceiling. Boehner says that the President’s immediate veto threat proves that the White House isn’t at all serious about putting America’s fiscal house in order:
This week, the House will pass a plan that addresses our debt and spending while taking action on the debt ceiling. And while the House once again acts responsibly, the administration still won’t present a plan or even say what cuts it’s willing to make to end Washington’s spending binge and the economic uncertainty that it’s creating. This unfortunate veto threat should make clear that the issue is not congressional inaction, but rather the President’s unwillingness to cut spending and restrain the future growth of our government.
I like the CCB/BBA proposal, for the reasons that Boehner gives here. On its own, the CCB will probably pass both the House and the Senate, given the number of vulnerable Democrats looking at tough re-election bids in 2012. It would only take four Democrats to flip as long as Republicans remained united on the bill, and that would put Obama in the awkward position of vetoing a debt-ceiling hike that he’s claiming is necessary to avoid a fiscal Armageddon.
However, the likelihood of getting two-thirds of the Senate to pass the BBA is rather slim, and almost non-existent in the time left before August 2nd. The CCB is structured so that the debt-ceiling increase doesn’t trigger without it. Even if Obama signs it into law, the lack of a triggering action would leave us essentially right where we are now. What is Plan B?
Charles Krauthammer suggests passing a $500 billion debt-ceiling increase with corresponding cuts detached from any trigger and daring the Senate and Obama to reject it. That wouldn’t be a bad plan, but it would mean having to do so at least three times over the next 12-16 months, assuming Congress and the President don’t agree on a totally balanced budget for FY2012. It might be just as well to pass a CCB without the trigger (if Congress won’t approve the BBA) if a CCB gets $2.4 trillion in cuts without tax hikes, and push the debate into the next election cycle. Clearly, the GOP represents the thinking of the electorate in that approach. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it addresses the crisis and leaves the Republicans holding the high ground in 2012.
The ultimate fallback position will probably be the McConnell plan, but Republicans should try these two options before getting to Plan Z.