Irresponsible: A Liberal Pot Calls Conservative Kettle Black
Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA) 14% opines that “our debt is on an unsustainable path.” We agree! $17,000,000,000,000 is a number incomprehensible to the human mind. But the 12 zeros should tell us something. Ironically, Rep. Honda has, by his voting record and actions in Congress, proven himself a fiscal liability to our nation, contributing generously to our national debt. We’re keeping count; he is a 5 percent on our scorecard, well below the abysmal Democrat average of 16 percent. Yet, somehow, he finds himself in a position to lecture conservatives about responsibility, and fiscal responsibility at that.
Rep. Honda calls the events leading up to the government shutdown a “dysfunctional, irresponsible game of brinkmanship” and is apparently relieved that “cooler heads ultimately prevailed.” Those “cooler heads” did indeed procure an 11th-hour deal which saved face politically. But Congress accomplished nothing legislatively that would protect Americans from the ravages of Obamacare, and the hefty debt that will result from it in the coming years. Recall, by 2013, just a decade from now, the U.S. will sink $250 billion into Obamacare annually, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Fiscally responsible? Not at all. But I digress.
In his op-ed, Rep. Honda calls for the passage of H.R. 233, which would “implement a straightforward, orderly process for increasing the debt ceiling: It would empower the U.S. Treasury to raise the debt limit by an amount permitting the government to operate for one year and allow Congress to block this action only by a veto-proof majority in both chambers.”
Translation: Let’s put government spending on autopilot. Let’s put debt limit increases on autopilot, so that liberals in Congress – Democrat and Republican alike – can spend as freely and gratuitously as they wish, even as a near-super majority casts votes in opposition.
Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham explains that what many liberals in Washington are saying “is ‘Washington should be on autopilot,’ right? And if that’s the case, Democrats should have the honesty to say we should repeal the congressional power of the purse. And we should say, ‘Look, we’ve got a perpetual appropriation.’”
Rep. Honda seems to think that his legislation will help prevent conservatives from using legislative leverage – like the debt ceiling or government funding – to extract policy concessions from liberals. He states:
[T]he debt ceiling [should not] be part of policy debates over access to contraception or abortion, affordable health care, whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline or any other hot-button issues unrelated to paying bills that the federal government has already racked up.
Toward the end of his condescending lecture he defends Obamacare and makes another pitch for H.R. 233, and warns that nothing else should be done to stop this oh-so-successful law:
It would be the height of irresponsibility to replay this fight again this winter, pushing our economy over a cliff because Republicans insist on undoing a health care law that brings coverage to millions and was ratified by all three branches of government and adjudicated in the last presidential election.
I believe this month’s impasse makes it clear that we need to enact H.R. 233 now. Having seen obstructionism bring the legislative process to a standstill, it is clear that now is the time to make serious structural reforms that prevent future economic — and congressional — recklessness.
Of course, he fails to mention that the House voted several times to fully fund the government while defunding Obamacare. Not once does he mention how much Obamacare will actually cost – excluding big numbers like $17 trillion and $250 billion makes it easier for him to make his case. Nor does he mention any of the myriad polls demonstrating Obamacare’s high unpopularity among Americans, regardless of political affiliation. The latest CNN poll shows 56 percent of Americans oppose Obamacare, while only 41 percent approve of it.
Ignoring this, Rep. Honda’s clarion call is for conservatives to allow liberals to put both government spending and the debt limit on autopilot and to grow the federal government in the name of “responsibility.”
Rep. Honda’s chooses his words strategically, though, painting the Left as level headed and the Right as irrational and irresponsible… the only problem is the numbers don’t support his case.
And regarding his claim that lawmakers shouldn’t use the debt ceiling as leverage on important issues, Rep. Honda would do well to read a recent piece by Mike Needham which explains:
Official Washington regularly casts scorn on the “brinksmanship” that has characterized our nation’s fiscal debates for the last three years. There has been brinksmanship in recent years, but it’s only offensive if you wish to place our nation on perpetual cruise control.
Needham explains that it is well within Congress’s purview to use government funding as leverage and historically, lawmakers have indeed used the debt ceiling as leverage as well. Gramm-Rudman was attached to a debt limit increase in the 1980s, and it played a role in getting our nation to a balanced budget a decade later. That’s just how our system of government works. Needham cites James Madison who explained in Federalist No. 58 “This power of the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining redress of every grievance.”
Well, Obamacare is the mother of all grievances, and it is the height of hubris for Rep. Honda to try to limit the mechanisms by which the people’s representatives address this grievance. That includes the debt limit, which was established in 1917 and characterized by the Congressional Research Service as a “form of fiscal accountability that compels Congress and the President to take visible action to allow further federal borrowing when the federal government spends more than it collects in revenues.” That’s just not something liberals like to hear.
Unfortunately for Rep. Honda and his ideological ilk, neither history nor the numbers support his claims.