Instant Analysis: Boehner Debt Plan Falls Short of ‘Cut Cap & Balance’

Here is an “instant analysis” of Speaker Boehner’s new debt ceiling bill, which was released late last night and is slated to be voted on in the House tomorrow.

The short version is that the bill not only violates the Cut Cap Balance Pledge*, it doesn’t even “reflect the ‘spirit’ of Cut Cap Balance,” as House leaders claim, because it neither cuts nor caps nor balances federal spending. And it creates an opening for Washington to raise taxes next year. 

More specifically, the bill:

Violates the Cut Cap Balance Pledge* because it:

1) Does not cut spending sufficient to reduce the deficit next year and thereafter (and may not produce any deficit reduction at all next year: see next point).

2) Does not cap federal spending — and thus does not put us on a path to a balanced budget.  Instead, it caps only discretionary spending (which is already capped by definition and equals only 39% of the budget).

3) Increases the debt ceiling without first passing a strong Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) out of Congress.

Increases the chances of a tax hike by giving significant legislative power to a 12-member “Super Committee” charged with producing $1.8 trillion in 10-year deficit reduction.

Gives the President the power to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling by $400 billion, subject only to enactment of a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval.  (This is a variant of the McConnell-Red “Cut Run & Hide” proposal.)

Does not — despite House Republican leaders’ rhetoric — reflect the “spirit” of the Cut Cap & Balance Pledge or the House-passed CCB Act.

Is unnecessary, because the House has already passed the Cut Cap Balance Act, H.R.2560, which does reflect the spirit of the Pledge. Despite the conventional wisdom that that Act is “dead,” it in fact remains parliamentarily alive in — and could be passed by — the Senate. 

Therefore, based on this initial reading of the legislation, I have to conclude that the House should not pass the Boehner plan. 

Dean Clancy is FreedomWorks’ Legislative Counsel and Vice President, Health Care Policy.

* The Cut Cap Balance Pledge reads as follows:  

I pledge to urge my Senators and Member of the House of Representatives to oppose any debt limit increase unless all three of the following conditions have been met:

  1. Cut – Substantial cuts in spending that will reduce the deficit next year and thereafter.
  2. Cap – Enforceable spending caps that will put federal spending on a path to a balanced budget.
  3. Balance – Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — but only if it includes both a spending limitation and a super-majority for raising taxes, in addition to balancing revenues and expenses.

In my opinion, Members of Congress who have signed this Pledge WILL violate it, if they vote for the Boehner debt ceiling plan.