As the August debt limit debate approaches and Congressional Democrats continue to clamor for a clean increase, more than 40 organizations today formally announced their support for a “Cut, Cap and Balance” approach to the issue — the same approach favored by the Republican Study Committee and solid conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).
At a press conference on Capitol Hill that also featured supportive lawmakers like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), coalition leaders called on all members of Congress, candidates for federal office, presidential candidates and the public to pledge not to support a debt limit increase unless Congress first passes a plan to cut spending, institute statutory spending caps and initiate the balanced budget amendment process. The member groups — including FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, Let Freedom Ring and the National Taxpayers Union — will bring the heat on Twitter and elsewhere to urge policymakers to commit to the pledge.
Pete Sepp, executive vice president of NTU, says the coalition conceived of a unified effort in part as a response to lackluster Congressional efforts to cut spending earlier this year.
“To be honest, this is motivated by a concern that after the underwhelming effort to try to reduce current-year federal spending by $100 billion … we needed to take a very strong stand and put down a marker,” Sepp said.
Some conservatives fret a balanced budget amendment will give Congress a license to raise taxes at will, but Sepp said the specific provisions of the coalition-backed plan prevent that. Those provisions require supermajorities in both houses of Congress to raise taxes and also limit spending to 18 percent of GDP, a limitation that would also require supermajorities to override.
“It would very clearly put the onus of budget balancing on the spending side of the ledger rather than on the revenue side,” Sepp said. “What’s important is we need to agree on the constitutional solution for the long-term. The history of the past 40 years [since the concept of a balanced budget amendment was first introduced] has shown that all the excuses offered not to do that are themselves absurd.”
Concerns about tax hikes aside, polls show strong support for each of the three elements of the pledge. An OnMessage, Inc., survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters, conducted on behalf of Let Freedom Ring, found 69 percent favor spending cuts, 66 percent favor caps and an overwhelming majority of 81 percent favor a balanced budget. A separate poll commissioned earlier this year by Ron Sachs Communications found a solid majority of 65 percent favor a constitutional amendment that requires Congress to balance the budget.
The coalition seeks to capitalize on that broad support by concentrating the message, Sepp said.
“This is an attempt to create a package that answers the question, ‘What do you, the people, want as a condition of raising the debt ceiling?'” Sepp said. “Prior to this time, there wasn’t that kind of unity. We had a lot of fragmented ideas and lots of channels of communication going to House and Senate leaders, especially on the Republican side. We wanted to create one channel with a message that will consistently reverberate into their offices.”
“I think the CBO report is properly understood to serve as a warning that another clean vote simply rubberstamping an increase on the debt won’t make the lines on those ugly charts go down anytime soon,” Sepp said.
The CBO report confirms the likelihood of a financial crisis if the administration and Congress don’t reverse course. The announcement of the coalition, perhaps, might motivate Congress to do just that.
Let Freedom Ring president Colin Hanna put it this way in a news release: “Today’s announcement represents an historic effort by dozens of outside groups, on behalf of millions of Americans, to unify around a simple principle: We recognize that half measures and timidity will guarantee a future debt crisis in America similar to what we have seen in Europe.”
Truthfully, it seems like wishful thinking to expect more than half measures and timidity during the debt ceiling debate — but a 47-group-strong demand for “Cut, Cap and Balance” can’t hurt.