The old joke in Washington is that Democrats are the evil party and Republicans are the stupid party (which is why you should guard your wallet and freedom whenever you hear talk of “bipartisanship”).
The GOP definitely is doing what it can to prove that at least one side of that joke is true. Republicans are actually talking about letting the debt limit increase in exchange for a vote on a balanced budget amendment.
Yes, you read correctly. They’re not talking about an increase in the debt limit in exchange for a balanced budget, or more borrowing authority in exchange for passage of a balanced budget amendment. Instead, they will roll over for the very low price of simply getting a vote on a proposed amendment.
Here’s a passage from a report in Human Events.
The Senate Republicans are preparing to tell President Obama that they want a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the Constitution passed in Congress in exchange for raising the statuary debt ceiling above $14.2 trillion. “My hope is that we would force a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment as a condition to voting on the debt ceiling,” Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) told HUMAN EVENTS. “By next week, or shortly thereafter, we will have all 47 Republicans unified behind the effort, and then begin to reach out to our Democratic colleagues.”
To understand the foolishness of this approach, here’s all you need to know.
1. If Republicans really want to force a vote on a balanced budget amendment, they basically have that ability already. The rules of the Senate give individual Senators considerable ability to disrupt ordinary business and force votes on motions that at the very least would be proxies for a BBA. And if all 47 Republicans really want to make a stink, they can grind the Senate to a halt and demand an up-or-down vote on a specific amendment.
In other words, Republicans are about to give the democrats something that they really want – an increase in the debt limit – in exchange for a vote that they could get anyhow.
2. More important, what makes them think it is a good deal to give Obama more borrowing authority in exchange for something that, at best, is symbolic? Everyone knows that there is zero chance of getting the necessary two-thirds vote to approve a balanced budget amendment.
That’s not an argument against having a vote (particularly if the BBA is well-written with real limits on taxes and the size of government), but it definitely is not a smart negotiating strategy. It’s sort of akin to trading a power-hitting all-star for a minor league utility player.
Fiscal conservatives should demand substance, not symbolism, in exchange for a higher debt limit. I’ll put forth a few ideas in next few days.