No thanks to President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner seems to have come up with a plan that will avoid a government shutdown and possible default, cut spending, and not increase taxes. Some details are here.
I can’t believe S&P and Moody’s would find the Reid plan a compelling reason to keep the U.S. debt rating at AAA. While it is better than not cutting spending at all — as President Obama originally intended — and doesn’t raise taxes, Americans should expect and demand more from Washington.
Boehner, on the other hand, would keep the debt cutting process going and more likely result in substantive spending cuts of $3 trillion, nearly three times the Reid plan. (And if you tack on the Reid defense cuts, you suddenly have a $4 trillion plan, including interest savings. The raters would like that.) I don’t think spending hawks should fear the Boehner debt commission if it has real teeth and doesn’t create a trigger for higher taxes.
As the details of the Boehner bill become clearer, it’s increasingly apparent that the bill is just what the moment calls for: significant cuts achieved through statutory sequestration caps, no tax increase, no backsliding on entitlement reform or implicit acceptance of Obamacare, a path to another process that could lead to more cuts without tax increases, and the setting of a precedent that from now on increases in the debt ceiling must be accompanied by proportional spending cuts. It’s far from perfect, of course—meaningful entitlement reform is the only way to really address the debt problem, and even short of that some more significant discretionary cuts would be good—but Republicans don’t control Washington, and given their limited formal power, an end to this process that looks something like this bill would be pretty remarkable.
One of the most important questions in life is, Compared to what? Right now the only alternative to the Boehner plan is the Reid plan, and that might not even pass the Senate. A vote that dares President Obama to veto a debt-ceiling increase that cuts spending without raising taxes, within the framework of the Cut, Cap, and Balance bill that the House already passed, is far better than climbing toward the debt ceiling without any real idea of what will happen should the government shut down and the global economy be thrown into disarray. Again and again, Obama has charged Republicans with being obstructionist. Again and again, House Republicans have voted to raise the debt ceiling implicitly (in the Ryan budget) or explicitly (in Cut, Cap, and Balance) as long as taxes are not raised and spending is cut. The Boehner plan fulfills both criteria. So why play into the president's hands now? When you control only one chamber of one branch of government, it's best not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Victory is within the House Republican's grasp. Can they seize it?