POLITICS

Morning Examiner: Republicans already losing debt limit war

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

Politico has never been kind to House Republicans, so maybe this morning’s Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen, and Jake Sherman item on what they will demand in exchange for a debt limit hike is just plain wrong. But if it is accurate, Republicans are in for certain failure in the coming debt limit fight. Politico reports:

To pacify conservatives, [Boehner] made two promises to his members that will greatly restrict his ability to craft a compromise in the spending fights ahead. The first promise was to bring to the floor only legislation a majority of his members support and do it through the committee process. The second was to increase the debt limit only in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar decrease in spending in the time period covered by that debt increase.

The first promise is perfectly reasonable. House Leadership should be as open and transparent as possible when crafting legislation that deals with out nation’s fiscal problems. But the second promise, “a dollar-for-dollar decrease in spending in the time period covered by that debt increase” would be no different than not raising the debt limit at all.

Remember, even though many journalists refer to raising the debt limit in units of time (months, years, etc.), the debt limit is actually measured in dollars. Currently it is set at $16.394 trillion. In the past, Boehner has traded a dollar decrease in spending over the next ten years for a dollar increase in debt limit now. But “a dollar-for-dollar decrease in spending in the time period covered by that debt increase” is a different formulation. That would be a dollar in spending cuts now for a dollar in debt limit hike now. In other words, a trillion dollar debt hike would require a trillion dollar spending cut

But that would require spending cuts just as large as not raising the debt limit at all. If the debt limit is not raised, the federal government would still take in enough money to pay existing debt obligations, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and defense. But virtually everything else would face steep cuts. Overall, the federal government would have to cut spending by about 44 percent. Cutting $1 trillion from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget would require similar levels of cuts. It is simply unworkable.

It is an absolute travesty that our federal government has reached a point that simply paying our bills, without adding to the debt, would require a 44 percent cut in spending. House Republicans have every right, indeed they owe it to their constituents, to set America on a different path. But cutting government spending by 44 percent right now would cause severe economic pain — pain for which the country would rightly blame Republicans.

Americans do want to rein in spending. Allowing the $1.2 trillion sequester to happen would be a positive step in that direction. Those would be real spending cuts House Republicans could take credit for back home. But there is only so much spending that can be cut right now. House Republicans need to come up with a more realistic price for raising the debt limit, otherwise they are setting themselves up for certain failure.

From The Washington Examiner
Examiner Editorial: For Obama, deficits don’t matter any more
Tim Carney: Jack Lew — From K Street to Wall Street to Treasury
Byron York: Defense spending can and should be cut — in the right way
Michael Barone: History suggests that era of entitlements is nearly over

In Other News
The Wall Street Journal, Ugly Choices Loom Over Debt Clash: The showdown over the nation’s debt ceiling could force the government to consider drastic steps to manage its limited cash, including delaying trillions of dollars of payments to employees, Social Security recipients, contractors and others.
The New York Times, Both Sides in Gun Debate Want To Punish Background-Check Liars: Nearly 80,000 Americans were denied guns in 2010, according to Justice Department data, because they lied or provided inaccurate information about their criminal histories on background-check forms. Yet only 44 of those people were charged with a crime.
The Washington Post, Maryland Gov. O’Malley to push for tougher gun-control rules: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will seek to institute some of the nation’s strictest gun-licensing requirements, ban assault weapons and restrict visitor access to schools in one of the most expansive government responses sought to last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The Washington Post, Sour U.S.-Russia relations threaten Obama’s foreign policy agenda: From Syria and Iran to North Korea and Afghanistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin holds cards that he can use to help or hurt Obama administration objectives.
The Los Angeles Times, California’s debt still a heavy cloud over state’s future: Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed last week that California, which now has enough cash to pay its day-to-day bills, can no longer be described by naysayers as a “failed state.”
Newsday, Gun permit map used by burglars to target White Plains home: A White Plains residence pinpointed on a controversial handgun permit database was burglarized Saturday, and the burglars’ target was the homeowner’s gun safe.

Righty Playbook
Merrill Matthews and Mark Litow on Obamacare’s sticker shock.
Paul Mirengoff catches Bill Clinton lying about gun control.
Eliana Johnson on Colin Powell’s bizarre defense of Chuck Hagel.

Lefty Playbook
BuzzFeed reports that the Federal Reserve killed the trillion dollar coin.
Paul Krugman attacks Jon Stewart for his trillion dollar coin coverage.
The Center for American Progress has produced a 13-item gun control wish list.

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