Editor’s Note: The “political theater” now playing in Washington and in state governments was to be the subject of an article I sat down to write just yesterday when I received an email from the Family Research Council (FRC) that said what I intended so efficiently and eloquently that I decided to pass it along to you. The title of the FRC article is actually “Nice Guise Finish Last.”
For once, we agree with Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Today’s vote on the debt ceiling is a charade. As members started pouring in from the four corners of the country, the Minority Whip said what was on everyone’s minds. “We need to be real,” Hoyer told reporters. “The process that was set up … ensure[s] its failure,” Hoyer added. “The resolution of disapproval will not pass.” Hoyer is referring to last Augusts’ deal, hatched by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), which lets the President unilaterally raise the debt ceiling while Republicans pretend to oppose it. South Carolina’s Representative Mick Mulvaney, one of the 66 Republicans who voted against the August bill, thinks the whole idea is disingenuous. “[I’m] bothered by the fact that we’re going to get up and beat our chests and say that we’re voting not to raise the debt ceiling when really we did back in August. I think people see through that.”
Under the terms of the Budget Control Act, the White House can up the US borrowing limit three times. Last week, he asked for the final installment, a $1.2 trillion boost to America’s credit line. Congress has 15 days to disapprove–part of the political theater that members built into the bill so that Republicans could register their complaints without any real risk of default. No one expects the resolution to make any difference, though, and that was by design. With the exception of some true conservatives who fought the debt ceiling from the beginning, today’s vote is a facade designed to make Congress look less culpable than it is. As most of us know, the House had an opportunity to address this problem last summer. Until this ridiculous compromise came along, conservatives were willing to go to the mat to make deep and meaningful cuts to the budget. They thought the debt ceiling debate would give them all the leverage they needed to demand real reforms. Instead, House leaders knuckled under for a hollow compromise.
Make no mistake. There’s a real crisis looming for Republicans unless they get serious about the 2010 mandate from voters to put our bloated government on a diet. Conservatives, especially young conservatives who can’t remember the days of Ronald Reagan, are not impressed by politicians who don’t walk the talk. Maybe that’s why Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is so appealing to young people. Republicans have to go beyond managing the moral and economic decline created by liberals to stopping it! Like Hoyer’s party, who leveraged its majority to fundamentally change America with policies like ObamaCare, Republicans need to be willing to leverage the majority to secure the future of the nation–not their party.
There is a conservative core here in Washington that gets it. These are the members who know that voting against the debt ceiling now doesn’t make up for voting for it when it mattered. “The real opportunity to stand for fiscal responsibility was in August,” said a frustrated Tim Huelskamp (R-KS).
Fortunately, House leaders will have one more opportunity to show their sincerity on fiscal issues: this spring’s budget battle. That will be the last test of the Republicans’ mettle heading into the 2012 election. If they fail, then the real resolution of disapproval will come from voters in November.