Surprise! Debt-ceiling deal gives Obama a blank check: Loophole will allow government to spend WITHOUT LIMIT until February
It’s the ultimate sweetheart deal for a free-spending federal government: Wednesday night’s debt deal didn’t actually raise the limit on America’s credit card, but instead removed it entirely until February 7, 2014.
Whether through legislative sleight-of-hand or something less sinister, the law of the land now permits the U.S. to run up new debts for 16 weeks without consequences, and forbids the Treasury Department from enforcing the debt limit that ordinarily keeps spending from spiraling out of control.
Some observers noted on Wednesday that when Congress burned the midnight oil to debate a deal that would save the U.S. from crashing through its existing $16.7 trillion debt ceiling and risking a credit default, there was no debate over exactly how far to raise it.
House and Senate negotiators only discussed how long the agreement would last.
The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that if the government had extended its debt ceiling in this fashion through the end of 2014, as one Republican proposal suggested, the federal government’s debt would have ballooned by $1.1 trillion.
At that rate, the national debt will likely grow by at least $282.5 billion on its own by the time Feb. 7 rolls around, bringing the total close to an even $17 trillion.
But there’s no guarantee it won’t grow even faster, especially if the legislative initiatives President Obama outlined Thursday morning were to cross the finish line by year’s end, as he demanded in his first public remarks since signing the debt-limit hike law shortly after midnight.
Obama said he wants Congress to give him a new budget deal, a 5-year farm bill and a comprehensive reform of America’s immigration laws, all before New Year’s Day.
Any one of those three could be a colossal budget-buster. Under ordinary circumstances, a hard-and-fast debt limit might serve as a check against runaway spending; but with no ceiling, Democrats could raid the Treasury to give the president what he wants, without fear of practical roadblocks getting in the way.
Republicans, too, could take advantage of the spending loophole. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demonstrated on Wednesday that he’s willing to accept expensive pot-sweeteners in exchange for a tidy solution to a messy problem.
When Obama signed the debt-bailout package into law, it included more than $2 billion in new spending for a dam project in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, answering for some the thorny question of why the Senate’s top Republican would be so eager to make Democrats look good by negotiating a deal when tea party conservatives in the House were refusing to do so.
According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Obama and Congress have already used the trick of ‘suspending’ the debt ceiling for a fixed period of time once before – running from February to May of this year.
That deal added $300 billion to the national debt in 102 days. The deal that went into effect Thursday covers 114 days.
The only requirement for that earlier agreement was that the Democrat-led Senate produce a formal budget for the first time since President Obama took office, which it did.
‘No savings were accomplished,’ says Heritage.
‘Suspending the debt is less transparent to the American people,’ the group explains, adding that ‘a calendar date is not nearly as scary to constituents as a figure in the trillions of dollars.’
The coming battles over a year-long federal budget, including Democrats’ demands for new taxes and an expected Republican push for spending cuts, could actually reduce deficit spending; but with no credit limit holding them back, lawmakers could see a perfect storm for committing to hundreds of billions in new earmarked projects calculated to please constituents back home.
The farm bill, too, is likely to rack up record spending on programs like food stamps, which fall under the Department of Agriculture’s budget: The Obama administration has already doubled the number of Americans receiving these entitlements since January 2009.
But immigration could require the biggest blank check of all.
While Obama and congressional liberals want to put 11 million illegal aliens on a path to citizenship, conservatives have consistently argued that the nation’s borders must first be secured. That, Democrats have countered, is simply too expensive to contemplate since it would likely involve building thousands of miles of new high-tech fences and staffing the Mexican border with thousands of guards whose salaries no one has contemplated yet.
Capitol Hill sources tell MailOnline that without a fixed debt ceiling over their heads, everyone in Congress might suddenly find it workable to give both parties what they want.
‘I can’t speak for the whole Republican caucus, of course,’ said a policy staffer to a conservative GOP House member, ‘but some of us want a border fence badly enough that we’ll look the other way if it adds a few hundred billion to the national debt.’
‘And once that’s in place, the biggest impediment to a citizenship path disappears.’
Since President Obama took office, new deficit spending has added about $43,000 to the national debt for every household in America.
That reflects a 60 per cent increase in the debt from where it sat on his first Inauguration Day, at $10.3 trillion.
At current rates of growth, Obama will leave office with national debts twice the size of those accumulated by all the previous U.S. presidents combined.
Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 12:23 PM By Sandy Fitzgerald
House Speaker John Boehner Monday called on colleagues to ban an exemption lawmakers and staff receive for health insurance, but he and his aides had worked for months with Democratic leaders to save the subsidies, leaked documents and emails show.
The documents were provided to Politico, which revealed Tuesday morning that Boehner and aides were working closely with Democratic rivals to protect the payments.
Roll Call had earlier reported that Democrats were mulling divulging the private communications between Boehner Chief of Staff Mike Sommers and Reid Chief of Staff David Krone as proof that Boehner was trying to protect the payments.
The revelations are sure to cause more friction between Boehner and more conservative members of the House of Representatives, who have been pressing for all Obamacare exemptions for Congress to be scrapped.
The documents show Boehner and his aides discussed the matter with the offices of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and others. Further, the documents show that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knew of the discussions.
A possible legislative solution was drafted, the documents show, and they continued to push for a solution from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Further, Boehner and Reid asked for a meeting with President Barack Obama to lobby him for help, the documents show. The meeting never happened, but a senior Boehner aide was able to speak to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about the Speaker’s wish to retain the employer subsidy.
Obamacare requires lawmakers and staff to join insurance exchanges, and the debate over whether they should continue collecting the employer contribution from the federal government has been the source of many heated discussions.
The OPM ruled that lawmakers and their staff could not receive employer payments once they went into the subsidies. The office reversed its decision, saying the employer payments could continue.
But Boehner put the issue into the government shutdown debate, attaching an amendment ending the subsidies to a House GOP funding bill.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Politico the White House should solve the problem, and that “we always made it clear that House would not pass any legislative fix.”
He said Boehner was aware that Reid and the White House had been discussing the issue and that the speaker’s “fix is repealing Obamacare.”
Boehner’s office said the leak shows how concerned Democrats are.
“Any emails from Mr. Sommers will reflect the Speaker’s position: he voted against ObamaCare, and he wants to repeal Obamacare,” Steel said. “If the Senate Democrats and the White House want to make a ‘fix’ to the law, it would be their fix. The Speaker’s ‘fix’ is repeal. This is just a desperate act by Harry Reid’s staff to protect their own subsidy.”
Reid communications director Adam Jentleson, meanwhile, said his boss worked closely with Boehner and was grateful for his help.
Roll Call reported the communications could back up Democrats’ claims that Boehner’s decision to add an amendment revoking the contributions was a shot at vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014, such as Kay Hagan of North Carolina or Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
By Robert Romano
“I want to be absolutely crystal clear — any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead. Dead.”
That was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) telling reporters last week that there would not be the votes to pass a House Republican plan to defund the health care law via the continuing resolution.
Something he and his colleagues might consider, however, is that that really cuts both ways.
Republicans have 46 members in the U.S. Senate, more than enough to defeat cloture on any continuing resolution that will ultimately result in Obamacare being funded.
To do so, they will first have to block a parliamentary maneuver by Reid to proceed to the continuing resolution in a manner that will allow the defund Obamacare language to be stripped out with a simple majority vote.
According to Breitbart.com’s Matthew Boyle, “They could refuse to grant cloture in the first place until a unanimous consent agreement is reached in the Senate that any amendment added to the bill post-cloture would also be subject to a 60-vote threshold. They could also require Reid to fill what is known as the ‘amendment tree,’ a list of amendments that is the maximum of what could be considered on a bill, with amendments other than that one, before agreeing to grant cloture.”
But, reports Boyle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refuses to commit to using all the tools in his parliamentary toolbox to do just that. He would be well advised, however, that consciously voting to proceed to any bill that invariably winds up funding Obamacare — even if the amendment to strip the defund language is to be agreed to post-cloture — is just the same as proceeding to a bill where the defund language had already been removed.
Yet, Senate Republicans appear to be content with playing dumb and pretending they will be voting to proceed to legislation that defunds Obamacare — when everyone already knows it in the end it will not.
For example Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said, “It doesn’t seem to make much sense to vote ‘no’ on a bill that contains the defund-ObamaCare provision. I don’t know anybody in our conference who’s for ObamaCare, so I think they’d vote ‘yes’ to get on a bill to defund it.”
That doesn’t sound like Senate Republicans are really committed to the defund strategy. But even if they aren’t — Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of” — there is another case to be made for waging a filibuster.
It would strengthen the GOP’s hand. When it is clear that there are neither the votes to fund Obamacare nor to defund it in the Senate, it would force Reid and the White House to the negotiating table.
While many observers have suggested that Reid and Obama will never compromise, history suggests otherwise.
The continuing resolution passed in March 2011 was a compromise largely negotiated by House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) that resulted in some small cuts to the budget. Sequestration was another compromise in exchange for raising the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion in August 2011. The tax deal in December 2012 was yet another compromise in exchange for avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.
This speaks not only to the willingness of Democrats to make a deal, but also to the utility of Republicans using these leverage points, whether they be continuing resolutions, debt ceiling increases, or otherwise, to achieve major concessions.
As Sen. Ted Cruz noted on Fox News in an interview with Neil Cavuto, “I know for sure that you lose 100 percent of the battle that you begin by surrendering, and all these Republicans who say we can’t win, if they want, these various pundits who want us to surrender, that will make sure we can’t win.”
Cruz is right. Consider the alternative offered by the Washington, D.C. establishment, which frowns upon any confrontation over the continuing resolution or debt ceiling. They fear anything that smacks of a government shutdown or risks default. They would apparently just have Obamacare opponents simply capitulate.
But surely to constituents of Republican senators — who have sworn up and down they oppose Obamacare — submission to a law that will force them onto government-run, taxpayer-funded health insurance is untenable.
They will intuitively understand what this fight is all about, and come 2014, 2016, and subsequent election cycles, they will likely collect political scalps, or attempt to, of any senator whom they perceive forced them onto Obamacare.
In a stark warning to senators, Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens defined the choice facing the so-called deliberative body: “The message for the Senate is very simple: If you vote to fund Obamacare via the continuing resolution, you will own the health care law. If you vote to invoke cloture on a continuing resolution that funds Obamacare, you will own it. And if you vote against a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare, you will own it, too.”
So, the choice belongs to each and every senator. They can stand with the American people, and block cloture on any continuing resolution that funds Obamcare, or they can roll over and let it be implemented.
But they would be well-advised that should they surrender, the American people will not forget — and they are not forgiving.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.
- House presents plan to defund Obamacare, but do they mean…
- If Republicans stand firm, Obamacare is toast
- Postpone Obamacare compromise the only plan that might work
- House Republicans all set to fund Obamacare
- House rebelling on Obamacare?
What was it about Rand Paul’s filibuster that has captivated conservatives all over the country and reinvigorated their desire to fight for our Constitutional Republic? The irony is that the drone issue was not even one of the most popular issues among many conservatives until last night. I suspect that many conservatives don’t necessarily agree with some of Paul’s assertions about targeting terrorists like Al-Awlaki overseas, although we are all (everyone except for McCain and Graham) concerned about targeting Americans on American soil. Yet he has become an overnight sensation, not just among his core libertarian base, but among the broad conservative movement.
Conservatives have been starving for a fighter; longing for someone who will do something drastic, engage in a media savvy fight against an imperialistic president who has no respect for checks and balances and an invidious disregard for the separation of powers.
We have witnessed this president shred the Constitution and implement his radical agenda by administrative fiat. We the People stand by flummoxed and frustrated at the lack of courage among Republicans to counter the president with anything more magnanimous than a press release. We have seen him abrogate our immigration laws, grant administrative amnesty, and let criminal aliens out of jail. Yet nobody has used their position and identified a point of leverage at which to take a stand and draw extended scrutiny to the issue or any other breach of authority.
Finally, when administration officials began asserting that the president might even have the power to launch drone strikes on American soil, Senator Paul decided he would hold up a major nomination to command the attention of the entire country. Many of us sat back and watched the impassioned speeches from Paul and the stirring words of Ted Cruz. We wondered why we had not witnessed this sort of spirited opposition during Obamacare.
Yet that is exactly the point. Most of these senators are new to Washington. They have charted a new path forward, one that is not paved with backroom deals but with forthright demonstrations of courage and commitment to the principles that buoyed them into office. Instead of cutting a deal to invoke cloture and having Brennan’s nomination sail to confirmation, Paul has united a fractious Republican Party against this – that is everyone except for Obama’s dinner companion Lindsey Graham.
Republicans have repeatedly entreated us to the tired bromide that they only control one-third of one-half….. What these banal bulls of Washington dealmaking don’t understand is that with complete control of the House and a filibuster strength minority in the Senate there is a lot they can do. With the ubiquitous nature of C-Span and social media, Republicans can use critical leverage points to seize on winning issues and put Obama in the defensive position.
That’s why yesterday’s act of cowardice on the CR in the House was so incomprehensible to many conservatives. Even if they planned to ultimately cave on Obamacare to avoid a shutdown three weeks from now, why not initially bring it to the floor under an open rule and debate Obamacare for a few days? Let’s at least draw attention to the injustice of Obamacare at a time when many people are feeling the pain of higher insurance premiums.
We are also told that the juggernaut of a biased media is too powerful to overcome were we to force some sort of a dramatic battle over critical issues, such as Obamacare or illegal immigration. It’s true in fact that the media is incorrigibly in the tank for the left, and there’s nothing we can do about that. But one thing about the media is that they are impressed by a show of force and stimulated by something new and exciting. Rand Paul proved that last night, as even some mainstream media reporters gave him positive coverage.
When the CR comes before the Senate, conservatives should hold it up at least for a day or two to educate the American people on the ramifications of funding Obamacare. When the nomination of the new radical nominee for EPA director comes before the Senate, they should take turns launching filibusters into the night, educating the public on how that agency has cost jobs and raised the cost of living on the working class. They should draw attention to onerous policies like ethanol mandates.
We didn’t send Republicans like Mitch McConnell to Washington to cut backroom deals and to passively and blithely ignore the injustices that are perpetrated by the statist class on a daily basis. Nor did we send Republicans to Washington to echo those injustices, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham do on a daily basis. It’s no coincidence that this effort was initiated by the disciples of Jim DeMint. And with the 2014 election cycle beginning now, it’s incumbent upon all of us to help send reinforcements to the ranks of our fighters.
- McConnell Takes Taxes Off Table in Debt Limit Negotiations (bloomberg.com)
- Chart of the Week: Government Spending Drives Debt Limit Higher (heritage.org)
- How the fiscal cliff deal will affect the economy and deficits, in six charts (washingtonpost.com)
- White House, GOP draw red lines in debt debate (news.yahoo.com)
- President Obama challenged on US debt (bigpondnews.com)
Libertarian ideas of smaller government, cutting domestic spending and a balanced budget not only run in the Paul family, but are starting to take a hold with mainstream Republicans as well.
When the younger Paul proposed his latest take on the FY 2013 United States Budget, it was seen as the “most radical” of today’s four proposed Republican budgets by many on the left. But it was also seen as a refreshing change by many on the right.
Most surprising about the Paul Budget is not that it made it to a vote at all, but that 17 of the Senate’s 47 Republicans voted for a budget that was supposedly too radical.
The Paul budget most notably called for the elimination of the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is seen as a large step by mainstream conservatives in getting the nation’s finances back on track.
According to the American Spectator, the Paul budget will also reduce federal spending by $11 trillion relative to President Obama’s budget, reduces discretionary spending to 2008 levels, and reduces foreign aid at $5 billion per year.
Theoretically, the Paul budget will not only balance the federal deficit in five years, but it would actually achieve a $111 billion surplus by 2017. If that wasn’t juicy enough for most conservatives, the Paul Budget would also repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements.
Super committee defense spending sequesters would also be ended, and the Federal government would also be required to end ownership of any failed private sector companies and stop bailing corporations out.
Despite the spending cuts that will be seen as ‘hefty’ by those on the left, the Paul budget sets out to prove that many items can be cut without touching entitlements. A separate bill addressing Medicare has yet to be drafted.
None of the senators were available for comment.
- Senate Republicans Vote Overwhelmingly For Controversial GOP Budget (tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com)
- Republicans in Senate vote overwhelmingly for Paul Ryan’s extreme budget (dailykos.com)
- Ron Paul Urges Supporters to Continue Fighting (usnews.com)
- GOP measure freezes lawmakers’ office budgets (kansascity.com)
- Voting on budget will provide 2012 ammo (thehill.com)
- GOP senator calls on Speaker Boehner to do what the Senate won’t on debt (thehill.com)