As the United States inches closer to maxing out its credit card (with a whopping $14.3 trillion on its balance sheet), lawmakers will soon be faced with a big decision, the one they face every year: whether or not to raise the debt ceiling.
Congress has never voted against increasing the limit on the federal credit card, but this year is very different from any other year.
The November elections were largely about the government’s inability to cure its addiction to spending and curb future shopping sprees funded by our tax dollars. Driven by the Tea Party, a message was sent to elected officials -- in both parties -- that if Americans were being forced to put their finances in order, Washington ought to do the same. A message was being sent that our out-of-control debt was no longer sustainable; that it was, and is, a threat to our way of life and plainly put, generational theft in its cruelest form.
This is why Republicans must not cave when it comes to the debt ceiling. That doesn’t mean they should vote against raising it, because the United States cannot default on its loans. The last thing we need is for our markets to collapse. But it means that there must be strings attached—spending cuts and serious reforms--if the administration wants the GOP’s support.
On Monday night Speaker John Boehner told a crowd that a re-tooling of Medicare must be part of this equation. And he’s right. Entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are our biggest drivers of debt:
“It’s true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible. But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process. To increase the debt limit without simultaneously addressing the drivers of our debt -- in defiance of the will of our people -- would be monumentally arrogant and massively irresponsible. It would send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America still is not serious about dealing with our spending addiction. It would erode confidence in our economy and reduce certainty for small businesses. And this would destroy even more American jobs.”
In order for change to happen, for the economy to grow and create employment opportunities, the entire Republican caucus must stick to their guns. If some members fold and simply vote to raise the debt ceiling without concessions from Democrats on cuts in exchange for their votes, passage is likely on an increase in the debt limit without the votes of the Tea Party. If enough Republicans cower, the debt ceiling will be increased with Republican and Democratic support—and not one change will be made to significantly attack our fiscal crisis.
Many of the lawmakers who fold will also find their candidacy on the chopping block in the 2012 elections. According to FoxNews.com, William Temple, head of this fall's Tea Party National Convention has said that the the Tea Party will not be in a very forgiving mood this fall. “If House freshmen and others elected by the Tea Party cave to Obama, we will find replacements for them."
With 14 cents of every dollar going to pay for our U.S. debt, the entire GOP has no choice but stay strong instead of giving in to political and public relations pressures. They must stand up and demand that real cuts will be made.
Now is the time. The public is paying attention and they want action from both political parties. Every single member of the GOP has to lead and turn up the heat on Democrats to push them to have the courage to make cuts with them. We’ll be watching.
Andrea Tantaros is a Fox News contributor and conservative commentator. Follow her on Twitter @andreatantaros.