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Maybe it is, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) seemed intent on undercutting it. “Frankly, I think it would be irresponsible on behalf of the Congress and the president not to be looking at back-up strategies for how to solve this problem,” he told reporters Thursday afternoon. “At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to act,” he added. He also noted that while some House members who support CC&B might be unwilling to embrace any compromise if it fails in the Senate, he doesn’t believe that the number of holdouts “would be anywhere close to the majority.”
Who are the holdouts? The best indication was a report revealing that David Beers, managing director of sovereign and international public finance at the Standard & Poor’s ratings agency, was scheduled to meet with the 87 “first-term Republican lawmakers” late Thursday. Mr. Beers was ostensibly going to warn those particular members, most of whom were voted into office on a platform of reforming runaway government spending, that there was a “50-50 chance the U.S. triple A credit rating could be cut within three months if nothing is done to meaningfully reduce the U.S. budget deficit.”
This suggests that S&P has taken the side of Democrats in this debate. If not, it would seem far more logical to address members of the Senate, who haven’t passed any debt ceiling legislation at all, and those Democrats who have indicated they will dismiss Cut, Cap and Balance out of hand.
Adding to the overall confusion are compromises best described as “mini-deals.” The shortest one has been proposed by the White House, with the president now suggesting he would be amenable to an increase in the debt limit for “a few days,” if negotiators agreed to the broad strokes of a deficit reduction deal, but needed more time to work out the details. Mini-deal number two was suggested by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on Wednesday’s “Kilmeade and Friends” radio show. “I think we need to take the cuts that are already on the table from the Biden conversations, which I understand are about one-and-a-half trillion dollars in savings,” Cornyn told host Brian Kilmeade. Cornyn contended that such a compromise would extend the timeline for getting a bigger deal by “six months.”
And the proposal by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), giving the president unilateral power to raise the debt limit in three stages with no conditions at all, is still alive. Despite bipartisan opposition in both houses, from Republicans who consider it an abdication of fiscal responsibility, and Democrats who don’t want to get scape-goated, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader McConnell are keeping this seemingly last ditch effort to prevent default in the mix. House Budget Committee member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who is not a fan of the bill, explained that its “only virtue” is that it “recognizes that the United States has to pay its bills to avoid an economic catastrophe. But it is not an adult moment,” he added.
Finally, the latest rumor. Thursday afternoon, the Washington Post reported that President Obama and top House Republicans were in “deep negotiations” regarding a package which would save $3 trillion over the next decade “through sharp cuts in agency spending and politically painful changes to popular health and retirement programs, but without any immediate increase in taxes.” Mr. Obama was said to be negotiating with John Boehner and Eric Cantor regarding a plan the White House characterized as “to the right of the Gang of Six” proposal.
Predictably, Democrats were furious. “[When] we hear these reports of these megatrillion-dollar cuts with no revenues, it was like Mount Vesuvius,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who also indicated such a proposal would be rejected by Senate Democrats. “Many of us were volcanic.”
No doubt. Just as there’s little doubt that the public is both confused and upset by the seemingly endless permutations of negotiations, along with the inaccurate and/or speculative reports accompanying them. To use an old expression, it would appear that the more things change, the more they remain the same. We’re another day closer to August 2nd, and other than Cut, Cap and Balance, there isn’t any other proposal that has been voted on in either house of Congress.
The only upside? C-SPAN is broadcasting the Senate debate on Cut, Cap and Balance. As I noted in a previous column, this is a grand opportunity for Americans to decide for themselves who has their best interests at heart, minus the media filter that far too often distorts the picture.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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