Balanced Budget Fight Begins

Senate conservatives are working to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) as part of the debate over a debt-limit increase.  According to Politico, Sen. Mike Lee (R.-Utah) is circulating a letter to other senators asking them to join his pledge to “oppose any attempt to raise the debt ceiling” until a BBA is passed by both houses.  Lee has been joined by Republican Senators Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), and Richard Shelby (Ala.).

Some conservatives worry that a bipartisan plan to cap spending from Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.) and Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.), the CAP (Commitment to American Prosperity) Act, may undermine efforts to pass a BBA this year.  The CAP Act would start in Fiscal Year 2013, capping spending at 25% of the gross domestic product, then ratchet down spending caps over the years 2014 through 2022.

This isn’t enough for some conservative senators, who note that spending caps have proven ineffective.  Furthermore, some complain that the CAP Act sets spending levels too high, and doesn’t even cap spending for the next fiscal year.

“Conservatives in the Senate want to do something at a fundamental level to fix the problem,” a senior Senate aide told Human Events.  “Statutory spending controls just don’t work.”

Debt Limit Increases Dangers

Two imminent threats are set to emerge during the debate over increasing the debt limit:  The “Gang of Six” and the Blair House negotiations among the House, Senate, and vice president on a way forward on increasing the debt limit.  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has issued an Aug. 2 deadline for Congress to increase the debt limit.

The Gang of Six includes Senate holdovers from the President’s debt commission negotiations: Senators Kent Conrad (D.-N.D.), Saxby Chambliss (R.-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.), Mike Crapo (R.-Idaho), Mark Warner (D.-Va.), and Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.).  This group is considering a mix of Social Security reform and tax increases to balance the budget.

In an interview with the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform pointed out the folly of these negotiations.  “The goal is to reduce the size and scope of government spending, not to focus on the deficit,” Norquist said.  “The deficit is the symptom of the disease.  And there are several reasons to oppose tax increases.”

If a mechanism to increase taxes is part of this negotiation, then this is a lose-lose idea for conservatives, because it would allow the debt limit to increase and lock in both parties in support of increasing taxes to balance the budget.

The other threat is the Blair House summit being held with Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.), Max Baucus (D.-Mont.), Daniel Inouye (D.-Hawaii), and Representatives Eric Cantor (R.-Va.), Jim Clyburn (D.-S.C.), and Chris Van Hollen (D.-Md.).  According to media reports, the summit is an attempt to find common ground on implementing spending reforms and balancing the budget without reforming Medicare and potentially implementing a so-called “debt fail-safe trigger” that would empower bureaucrats to change the tax code.  Any idea that does not touch the issues of entitlement reform and increases taxes is also a lose-lose proposition for conservatives.

Senate Committee Conservative

This week it will be announced whether Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) will be put on the Senate Finance Committee to replace Sen. John Ensign (R.-Nev.), who resigned his Senate seat last week.  There are other good Republican conservatives seeking the slot, such as Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Mike Johanns (Neb.), but many in the Tea Party movement and Club for Growth support DeMint for the slot on the committee that has jurisdiction over tax policy.  DeMint has seniority over Corker and Johanns, so most analysts expect him to get the nod.

GOP Filibuster Fails

Senate Republicans were forced into a cloture vote on President Obama’s nomination of John McConnell to be a judge for the federal district of Rhode Island.  Republican senators complained that there wasn’t an opportunity for a free and fair debate, but 11 Republicans joined with Democrats to advance the nomination past a GOP-orchestrated filibuster.  Thirty-three Republican senators voted to extend the debate on the nomination, but to no avail.  Their effort failed in a 63 to 33 vote.  McConnell was later approved by the Senate in a 50 to 44 tally.

Congratulations, Presidents Obama and Bush

One of the goals of the global War on Terror over the past nine-and-a-half years was the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden.  This accomplishment shows the world that the American military will continue its fight through different leadership to accomplish the mission at hand.  Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama deserve congratulations on a job well done.

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