Opinion | Coming weeks will show battles with growing, absurd debt ceiling
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 00:09
Two separate battles will unfold in the next month on Capitol Hill. These battles involve Democrats vs. Republicans and they’re jawing at each other.
On Oct. 1 the United States will, by current law, not be authorized to continue or initiate any outlays from the federal budget referred to as the ‘Government Shutdown’. In late Oct. the government will not be able to borrow any additional funds on the country’s behalf due to the debt ceiling.
These two battles will be consuming the news cycle in the coming weeks, and could last far longer than that. In the case of the government shut down there is no hint of progress. Not one appropriation bill has been passed and the only thing a unified Republican conference is bringing to the table is a Continuing Resolution (CR), H. J. Res. 59, that will continue to fund the government until late December, minus any funds directly correlated to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
The debt ceiling is currently at $16.7 trillion, constituting the inability of the government to borrow a penny more than that. In August, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the President’s former chief of staff, stated in a letter addressed to prominent lawmakers in Congress that the United States would hit this limit sometime in mid-October. If Republicans fail to successfully de-fund the implementation of the ACA in the government shutdown fight, they will likely attempt to use the debt ceiling as the platform as rematch. Speaker Boehner has previously stated that he would like to tie every dollar the debt ceiling is raised to a dollar of spending cuts in order to balance the increased borrowing. From an objective standpoint, that is a fair deal to make. Almost everyone agrees the United States has a catastrophic problem in the national debt, so if lawmakers simply want to increase the amount the United States can borrow yet again with no action to stop the bleeding, then their prior rhetoric in regards to debt reduction becomes empty and aloof.
On the other hand, it isn’t reasonable to believe that the president would, under any circumstance, sign a bill into law that would inhibit his signature piece of legislation that marks his legacy. It does make good politics to continue to fight against a piece of revolutionary legislation that will mark his place in history, a piece of legislation that according to an August 22, 2013 Gallup poll shows 49 percent of Americans still disapproving. If the Republicans hold their footing on the defunding of the ACA, they will most likely see a spike in fundraising revenues from their base contingent on the campaign they intend on rolling out with the battle. The last debt ceiling fight we endured ended in the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that created the subsequent “super committee”. The super committee was made of 12 lawmakers. Six were Democrats, six were Republicans and six were senators and six were house members. They were assembled to create a solution to our burgeoning federal debt. They failed in finding a solution and sequestration went into effect. The sequester is a set of mandatory discretionary spending cuts that were meant to cut so deep that Congress would have to find a solution, or else. Or else happened on Jan. 1, 2013 and the debate is on in regards to how bruised the United States’ economy will be as a result.
The percussions from the last debt battle were not only harmful from an economic standpoint, the sequestration, but also a global public relations standpoint. Republicans are not attempting to repeal or defund the ACA because it’s good politics or because of their disdain for the president, they are doing this because they truly believe that it is what’s best for the country. The inherent problem is that the president holds the cards. He’s got the Senate and the bully pulpit on his side, not to mention the pen in pocket. That begs the question of how much gamesmanship Speaker Boehner really has. He must be careful or he may end up like Speaker Newt Gingrich who emerged politically wounded from the government shutdown fight with President Clinton in 1995 and 1996.
The most likely outcome of the government shutdown will be that the House passes H. J. Res. 59 and the Senate strips the defunding of the ACA out of it and there will be small concessions. This is because no one wants to get blamed for not getting military families the checks they have earned. The debt ceiling may be bloodier and more of a rocky ride, so buckle up and get ready to stagger into the holiday season.