Let the Balanced Budget Kabuki Commence!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 18 2011 2:02 PM

Let the Balanced Budget Kabuki Commence!

The Club for Growth does conservatives a big favor and announces that it will score the votes on "Cut, Cap, and Balance" and (eventually) the McConnell punt plan. Per the statement:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

"Cut, Cap, and Balance will fix our fiscal mess. The McConnell-Reid plan does not," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. "McConnell-Reid simply punts our budget problem further down the road and is everything that’s wrong with Washington. Congress has proven that they are unable to balance the budget without reform. Cut, Cap and Balance is the only plan that permanently handcuffs politicians from spending more money than they take in."
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Here's the thing: CCB can't pass. The Balanced Budget Amendment as currently constructed can't pass the Senate. If you've been reading the text of these bills, you know this, but a considerable part of the political strategy depends on people not reading those bills. "Balanced Budget Amendment" polls well, and it takes a little work to know what the amendment actually does.

The White House is slowly, slowly, oh so slowly joining the education effort on the BBA. Hey, it beats proposing its own plan that would alienate some liberal groups while bestowing the executive with a little credibility. Jamie Dupree has the official statement threatening a veto if CCB actually passes.

The bill would undercut the Federal Government’s ability to meet its core commitments to seniors, middle-class families and the most vulnerable, while reducing our ability to invest in our future.  H.R. 2560 would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development, and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future.  It could also lead to severe cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which are growing to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers, and put at risk the retirement security for tens of millions of Americans.
Furthermore, H.R. 2560 could require even deeper cuts, since it conditions an increase in the Federal debt limit on Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment.  H.R. 2560 sets out a false and unacceptable choice between the Federal Government defaulting on its obligations now or, alternatively, passing a Balanced Budget Amendment that, in the years ahead, will likely leave the Nation unable to meet its core commitment of ensuring dignity in retirement.

That's a lugubrious version of the argument Democrats used against the "clean" BBA in the 1990s, back before it included a hard spending cap. Reporters are pretty well clued in to the game here, which is why tomorrow's vote isn't being covered like a game changer. Voters are still in the position to get snowed.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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