Where’s the Beef in the Debt Limit Buns?

July 26th, 2011

By Dan Miller

Where's the Beef?According to this Tatler article, the Boehner plan lacks sufficient support in the House to pass. That is quite understandable. There is a dearth of substance in reports on the Boehner “plan,” which appears to be little more than a road map to something perhaps good — drawn with a dull and broad magic marker between two points on a very small globe. Here is a summary from Speaker Boehner’s office. It is so amorphous that it could mean, and result in, just about anything.

Despite whatever procedural tricks the plan may offer, and there may actually be something concrete in the final legislative language, there is simply no way short of a constitutional amendment to bind future congresses and presidents. House and Senate rules are up for grabs at every new congress and they often change.

Passage by the Congress of a balanced budget amendment is one of the sweeteners. However, under Article V of the Constitution, it takes more than the Congress (by 2/3 vote in both houses) to approve an amendment to the Constitution: for any amendment to become part of the Constitution it must also be ratified by 3/4 of the states, i.e., by thirty-eight of them. No reliable assurances can be given by anyone that 3/4 of the states will ratify such an amendment or when they might do so. It’s a silly gamble and no better than a pig in a poke to be opened and examined later rather than before buying it. The pig may be dead and rotten, but if so that’s tough.

The House has powers it has not exercised well. It can pass separate and specific appropriations bills for each agency and department. In doing so, it can deny such funding as a majority in the House may agree. The Senate can refuse to pass a budget for, for example, the EPA because it does not provide adequate funding to kill “dirty” energy generation or for any agency involved in implementation of ObamaCare because it does not provide adequate funding for the care of sacred cows. If that happens, or if the Senate passes such appropriations but the President vetoes them, the agencies get no funding at all. Tough. I suggested how to do this last November, just after the congressional elections during which the Republicans won a big majority in the House. No traction.

The notion that something must be done, the Boehner plan is something so the Boehner plan must be done is a foolish substitute for getting to work. So is blathering.  I had rather see a clean increase in the debt limit valid only for one year, or even a default, than the foolish substitutes now being offered as solutions.

(This article was first published at The PJ Tatler.)


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One Response to “Where’s the Beef in the Debt Limit Buns?”



  1. Dan Miller |

    A thunderstorm intervened before I had a chance to add this to the article:

    We would get something — important — for a one year only “clean” increase, as I suggested here.

    Grant an immediate one trillion dollar debt limit extension valid only through August 1, 2012, on which date the debt limit will revert to the present one. Borrowed funds are to be used only1. To pay interest on debt,

    2. To redeem debt when due, and

    3. To provide necessary funding for federal operations as authorized by previously enacted legislation but only, (a) until August 1, 2012, or (b) as hereafter authorized by the Congress.

    Mere promises to maybe deal with substance won’t be kept. This suggestion does not rely on promises and will dump the problem back in the Congress where it belongs. Majorities of both houses will, as always, be needed to pass the necessary legislation appropriating funds for specific purposes and refusing to appropriate them for other specific purposes. Both will be necessary. It will give the Congress a year to get its act together and, with some luck, force the beginnings of a balanced budget; only with the consent of both houses can the budget remain unbalanced. That’s the purpose of paragraph 3. The suggestion will require action by our CongressCritters, mindful of the fast approaching November elections, the results of which seem more important to them than anything else. (emphasis added)

    As our beloved President would say, “if not now, when?”

    I haven’t seen anything better yet and don’t expect to.


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