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Where does the public sit? A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last week revealed that 66 percent of Americans supported the Cut, Cap and Balance Act approach to reining in government excess, and 74 percent favor a balanced budget amendment. Yet despite being passed by the House, Cut, Cap and Balance was blocked from being brought to vote in the Senate on Friday. A “motion to proceed” was tabled by a 51-46 vote along party lines.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called CC&B “perhaps some of the worst legislation in the history of this country” had originally scheduled a vote on the proposal for Saturday, but moved it to Friday at the last minute. This had many Republicans upset. “Senate Democrats should stop hiding behind a procedural vote to block a plan with two-to-one support from the American public,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). “The Senate and the president are in meltdown,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). “They have not figured out what they’re going to do. They have no plan, they haven’t put anything on a piece of paper. And the clock is ticking.”
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) was furious. “It is outrageous that every Senate Democrat voted against even allowing a debate on balancing the budget within 10 years, a plan supported by two-thirds of Americans with wide support across all party lines,” he fumed. “Why are Senate Democrats so afraid to debate a balanced budget?” He then reiterated a position proposed by this columnist last week. “I urge Republican leaders to stop letting the President drag you back like children into secret meetings where he pretends to do something constructive…No more closed door meetings, no more phony compromises that don’t solve the problem, no more useless commissions.”
Unfortunately, such openness isn’t likely. On Saturday, the president held another private meeting, this time with Boehner, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It went nowhere. Another meeting took place in Boehner’s office late Saturday. It included Sen. Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), all of whom were reportedly trying to reach a deal before the Asian stock markets opened late Sunday. 50 minutes later it was over. No deal was reached.
Afterwards, Harry Reid spoke with reporters. “I am deeply disappointed in the status of negotiations with my Republican colleagues,” he said. “I hope that Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell will reconsider their intransigence. Their unwillingness to compromise is pushing us to the brink of default.” That’s a rather remarkable statement from the leader of the Senate, where no budget deal has been passed for over 800 days, and nothing in writing has been proposed by any Democrat in either chamber of Congress to date.
The second meeting was driven by fears of a worldwide stock market selloff. Why Monday in particular? That scenario was promoted by the president himself on Friday. “I think it’s very important that the leadership understands that Wall Street will be opening on Monday, and we better have some answers during the course of the next several days,” he said late that afternoon. The president’s inference of possible market chaos is reminiscent of his remark regarding the possibility that Social Security checks might not go out unless the dispute is resolved. Both statements reflect the “never let a crisis go to waste” fear-mongering that is rapidly becoming this administration’s M.O. An M.O. which has business leaders like Bernie Marcus, Steve Wynn and countless others “sitting n their thumbs.”
As of late Sunday, bipartisan talks had broken down, and both parties were in fallback mode. On the Democrat side it was being reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was working on a $2.5 trillion deficit reduction package that would extend the debt ceiling until 2013. No tax increases were part of the deal. House Speaker Boehner reiterated his support for Cut, Cap and Balance, but with a two-stage process likely to include dollar-for-dollar spending cuts tied to commensurate raises in the debt ceiling. The backdrop for all the partisan maneuvering? As always, the 2012 election.
Will a deal get done? Undoubtedly. And while that’s a good thing, almost irrespective of the details, compromises and political one-upmanship, it is little more than the proverbial tree in a forest of uncertainty — and fear — elucidated by Bernie Marcus and Steve Wynn. In the final analysis, it is the steadfast dedication to big government solutions that will continue to impede job creation, regardless of whatever deal is reached on the debt ceiling. The August 2nd deadline will come and go. But the commitment to Keynesian economics, a weak dollar facilitated by QE2 (and possibly QE3), and massively burdensome regulations will remain.
Unless something unforeseen happens, one can expect the economic status quo to remain largely unchanged. A status quo that is essentially a hiring freeze driven in large part by fear of these economic forces. That’s the big picture. One that has been largely lost in the debt ceiling shuffle.
Arnold Ahlert is a political contributor to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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