'Gang of Six' Debt Ceiling Plan is DOA in House

Harry Reid and President Obama are playing political games in the debt limit debate.

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The so-called “Gang of Six” plan has hit the U.S. House of Representatives with a resounding “thud.”

There are a number of problems with it, the least of which is that it is not really a plan at all. Rather, it is an outline of a framework of a concept of a deal, one that would raise taxes considerably without doing very much, if anything, to bring spending under control.

The problem with deals of this sort, and we’ve seen them before, is that the new taxes, new revenues, and new spending all seem to kick in right away while the promised spending cuts, which always are set to go into effect in the so-called “out years” never seem to go into effect at all. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should Congress raise the debt limit?]

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who really hasn’t proposed much of anything up to now, asked his colleagues in the U.S. House Wednesday to send him a “path forward” in the debt debate.

Reid is playing political games—which he can do since he alone controls the Senate floor, where it is unlikely he will bring the Senate version of "Cut, Cap, and Balance" up for a vote, lest it pass.

Ohio’s Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, responded to Reid’s request, saying, “In case Senator Reid didn’t notice, a bipartisan ‘Gang of 234’ just sent him the way forward. It’s called the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act. This is the only plan that can fundamentally solve our debt problem, and it is waiting for Senator Reid to bring up on the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. The House made its position in the debt debate crystal clear. It’s Cut, Cap, and Balance.” [See a slide show of 6 consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised.]

The simplicity of the "Cut, Cap, and Balance" plan—as opposed to complexity of the outline of the framework of what the “Gang of Six” suggests it wants to do—is causing trouble for the Democrats. The only way they can get the higher revenues, increased spending, and nebulous cuts in entitlements they want is by burying them in some kind of big deal.

Remember how adamant President Barack Obama was just about a week ago that he would refuse to sign a 30, 60, 90, or 180-day temporary debt ceiling measure? Now that the “Gang of Six” looks to be pulling together something that is made to his specifications, he’s changing his tune—saying Wednesday he now would consider putting his name to a short-term deal. And he said he’d be willing to slide the August 2 deadline forward—which is a bit of an odd statement considering that was supposed to be the day the Treasury Department ran out of borrowing authority and was not subject to change. [Read the U.S. News debate: Does the U.S. need a balanced budget amendment?]

The backbenchers in the GOP deserve credit for keeping up the pressure. “Republicans have led and given President Obama a commonsense offer: We will increase the debt limit if you simply agree to balance the budget over the next decade,” said Cut, Cap, and Balance backer Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

“More than 20 Senate Democrats are on record supporting a balanced budget,” the Palmetto State Republican said in a release, “including Democrat Leaders Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. Cut, Cap, and Balance can pass the Senate if Democrats keep their promise to voters and support the balanced budget amendment. This is the bipartisan compromise that can solve the debt impasse, save our AAA bond rating, grow our economy, and avoid job-crushing tax hikes.” [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Sketchy frameworks. Sliding timetables. Phony deadlines. It sounds like one side of the fight over just how to raise the debt ceiling is more interested in playing politics than problem solving. 

  • See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.
  • See a slide show of 6 ways to raise the debt ceiling.
  • See a slide show of 6 consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised.