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The looming showdown on the debt limit is an artificial crisis — triggered by President Barack Obama’s July 7 threat to veto any debt increase that doesn’t extend the limit past the 2012 presidential election.
It was a bold political maneuver by a president focused on re-election, and it appeared to take the best available solution off the table.
House Republicans should once again lead and enact a short-term extension of borrowing authority, putting the onus back on the president to accept an extension consistent with existing law or keep the specter of default looming over the American people.
The levels of government spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, were set by Congress in April, with the adoption of a continuing resolution that was signed into law by the president.
Implicit in my vote to support this framework was an understanding that the debt limit would have to be raised. This vote committed funds to pay our troops, provide services to our veterans and seniors, and finance many other essential government services.
Good faith requires all of the parties to support an increase of the debt limit to make these payments. Such a limited extension fulfills that obligation and creates a model for the future — i.e., agree to a spending plan first, then set the debt limit so that it accommodates the agreed-upon spending levels and nothing more. In effect, this restores the debt limit as an enforcement mechanism to prevent overspending.
Congress would then face the task of hammering out a spending plan for fiscal 2012 and sending it to the president by Sept. 30.
House Republicans have led in this effort, passing a budget plan earlier this year that made the tough decisions necessary to contain out-of-control entitlement spending and to responsibly reduce annual budget deficits to zero over time.
The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the House budget resolution on a party-line vote and unanimously rejected Obama’s deficit ballooning proposal, but it has been an unwilling partner in producing an annual spending agreement.
In fact, it has been more than three years since the Senate passed a budget, with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) failing entirely in 2010 when the only other partner in the negotiations was Obama.
The American people have reached a tipping point, fed up with out-of-control spending at every level of government and the type of political gamesmanship we’re seeing from the White House on the debt limit.
The Path to Prosperity, the Republican budget passed by the House earlier this year, establishes measured benchmarks to reduce annual budget deficits and to put entitlement spending on a more sustainable cost curve.
It is true: Even this sensible plan requires annual budget deficits for the foreseeable future, but at a decreasing rate during the next 10 years.
Implementing that plan will also require raising the debt ceiling, but the American people would have the reassurance that the federal government had finally turned the corner and begun to bring spending under control.
Regrettably, the president has chosen to demagogue the Republican plan as “shortsighted” and “excessively partisan,” rather than engage with a responsible plan of his own. Meanwhile, the country is barraged with administration officials prophesying an economic doomsday as the Aug. 2 deadline approaches. That’s not leadership, hope or change.
Obama wants us to commit to a future of overspending fueled by higher taxes. We should reject that false choice, cast aside the hype and imaginary deadlines, pass a short-term debt limit increase and agree on a spending plan for 2012 that demonstrates the fiscal restraint the American people are demanding and have a right to expect.
The prosperity of future generations rests on the decisions we make today. It’s time for government to start living within our means.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.