Cut Cap and Balance -- Don’t Cut and Run

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote today on H.R. 2560 also known as the "Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011."

If the debt ceiling must be raised (an open question for many conservatives) then this is surely the best way to do it.

The bill would significantly cut government spending, create binding caps to bring spending back to its historical average, below 20 percent of the economy, over the next ten years, and require Congress to adopt a tough balanced budget amendment to the Constitution – including a spending cap and a supermajority requirement for tax increases – before the federal government would be allowed to incur any more debt.

President Obama has issued a veto threat, saying, ridiculously, that such structural controls on spending are not necessary to restore fiscal accountability. He continues to claim he supports spending cuts of four trillion dollars, but he won’t show anyone anything specific. All we know for sure is that he wants steeply higher taxes that would make government even bigger.

House Republicans have been winning this debate, evidenced by the fact that the White House is using desperate scare tactics.

Unfortunately, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has stepped into the breach with a plan that amounts to pre-emptive surrender, undermining the growing momentum that has been building for real spending cuts and reforms.

Opponents have fittingly dubbed it "Cut and Run."

The McConnell plan allows the president to unilaterally increase the debt ceiling, subject only to a “resolution of disapproval” that Congress could pass to theoretically stop him. Because the resolution could be vetoed, this amounts to a transparent political charade to pretend to oppose a debt ceiling increase while allowing it to happen.

Any member of Congress who votes for the McConnell plan will have voted not just to raise the debt ceiling, but to allow the president the sole power to do so at his own discretion. It is an outrageous abdication of legislative responsibility.

Moreover, the McConnell Plan apparently violates the U.S. Constitution, in which the people granted legislative power to the Congress, specifically Article I Section 8, which granted Congress the power “to borrow Money on the credit of the United States.”

Worse, the strategy grants the president greater authority to borrow and spend at a time when the American people elected a Congress to stand up to the Obama administration’s big government policies. Quite simply, no Republican was elected to give President Obama more power, and grassroots activists will be justifiably outraged if his plan moves forward.

Politically, the McConnell Plan is too clever by half.

That’s why Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid support it. They know that even if Republicans have some claim to have technically opposed the debt ceiling increase they made possible, the real result is that Democrats will score a huge political victory by walking away with a blank-check increase in the debt ceiling with no attendant spending cuts or reforms.

Unfortunately, while the House is aggressively pursuing the right approach with "Cut, Cap, and Balance," Speaker Boehner has left the door open for future support of the McConnell plan, saying last week:

“And what may look like something less-than-optimal today, if we’re unable to get to an agreement, might look pretty good a couple of weeks from now. But I think it’s worth keeping on the table. There are a lot of options that people have floated, and frankly, I think it’s an option that may be worthy at some point.”

He’s wrong. This is no time for retreat, and a couple weeks from now will still be no time for retreat. An unprecedented wave of public discontent over out-of-control federal spending swept this new Congress into power, and their clear mandate is to hold firm.

Today, the House will pass its "Cut, Cap, and Balance" plan. They should stand strong and reject the McConnell approach.

Then they must force President Obama and Democrats – who have warned that the world will end without a debt ceiling increase – to explain why obstructing popular, commonsense reforms like a balanced budget amendment is more important than stopping what they insist is a doomsday scenario.

Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. His forthcoming book “Democracy Denied” will be published by BenBella Books in October.