If you think you’ve seen the last of the DC fiscal budget debates, this is just the beginning. Judging by the media coverage this week, most commentators and financial analysts may know a lot about money, but little about policymaking and politics. Capitol Hill has its own special tune and folks on the outside (i.e., people who never worked there) most of the time seem a little out of synch with reality.
The Republic will survive after this national discussion, stronger and poised for better things to come; however, there are a lot of things that need to take place before that. The debt ceiling is a prelude of what awaits this town, indeed the country, later this fall. And, based on reliable news reports, it is something that will last all the way through the end of the year. You have not seen the end of budget and money battles. And let’s hope that remains the case until the fundamental spending habits of our federal government are addressed by fulsome, long-term policy corrections.
I’ve had Members of Congress tell me this past week that the budget debates on the horizon will pale in comparison to the current debt ceiling jockeying. And herein lies the frustration with certain elements of the House Republican conference. They were always, and continue to be, one election cycle away from reaching their goals of meaningful slashing of federal government spending, reducing taxes, and eliminating regulatory red-tape. They’ve been down this road before only to be disappointed when things were finally said and done.
While folks focus on debt ceiling this week, I also see a certain disconnect with other things that are taking place in the Congress. For example, appropriations bills keep moving that are chock full of new spending and earmarks. Things such as legislative “placeholders” continue to creep in to appropriations bills, kind of defeating the much-touted GOP House earmark ban. According to some estimates I’ve read, there are an astonishing number of new earmarks, close to 40,000, that get in despite the new ban. That number will only increase as we enter the fall.
Cutting spending and regulatory burden should be a priority of this and every Congress, but the fact is that there are not enough Members in either the House or Senate that are committed to that. Media histrionics aside, the cold fact is that the Republican-controlled House cannot do it alone. This debt limit business also needs a more serious discussion because, based on what I have read the past few months, maybe it is time to get rid of it.
For now, those of us that want to see increased cuts in federal spending have to trust that the Republicans and conservative Democrats are doing as much as they reasonably can given the make-up of the House and Senate. The House Republicans can only do so much, they only control the House, the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. If we want more, the 2012 elections will afford yet another chance to grow the ranks of conservatives in both the House and Senate. Gird your political loins, the best is yet to come.