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The Debt Ceiling: Threading the needle won’t be easy!

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By Bill Sargent
The Post Newspaper Contributing Columnist

Most people understand the Constitution grants the House exclusive power to begin funding legislation.  This includes all appropriations bills and debt ceiling measures.  Up until this year, Congress has gone on a spending spree adding an unprecedented level of debt – currently approaching the $32 trillion level — and with it an ever-increasing level interest payments. 

Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Yellen warned that by early summer the U.S. will no longer be able to pay all its bills unless there is an increase in the debt ceiling.   More recently, she picked June 1st as the date when this will happen. Many in Congress don’t believe June 1st is a firm date. 

Meanwhile the Biden Administration refused for over three months to try to work out a solution that will accommodate all parties.  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) continually called upon the Administration to come to the table while the White House, until recently, refused, saying the only acceptable legislation will be a “clean bill” without any spending cuts attached. 

In April, the House passed its bill which would raise the debt ceiling but would mandate returning to 2022 spending levels. The White House and Senate leadership claimed that bill was dead on arrival. However, with polls showing between 60-70% of the voting public want to stop deficit spending, the White House has finally started to negotiate.  However, recent reports indicate the two sides are still miles apart.

The spin from the White House and their friends in the media are claiming the House approach will stop, or at least reduce, Social Security, Medicare, and VA benefits.  Nothing is farther from the truth!

The House bill will cut the massive spending contained in the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” that passed in the final hours of the last session and which, not surprisingly, does nothing to reduce inflation but conversely increases it.  The bill also cancels most of IRS’s $80 billion increase to hire 87,000 IRS agents; an increase that would give us more IRS agents than agents serving in the Border Patrol. 

The bill also repeals some of the clean energy tax credits; credits that prompted Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) to recently ask an Administration witness why the federal government is “paying people to drive EVs?”  Additionally, it eliminates the unconstitutional plan to waive up to $20,000 in individual student loan debt, while it boosts work requirements for major social welfare programs including food stamps and Medicaid.   Under the package, childless, able-bodied adults ages 18-55 would need to work three months out of every three years in order to receive food stamps; and they wouldn’t need to be employed full time during the three months.

The House bill passed with two votes to spare, in part because several conservative members like Andy Biggs (R-AZ) thought the measure didn’t go far enough.  Biggs contended it’s not enough to just slow the increase in deficit spending rather we need to stop it.  Meanwhile, in an attempt to end-run Speaker McCarthy, 213 House Democrats – five votes short of those required – have signed a discharge petition for voting on a clean debt limit increase without any spending cuts.

Threading-the-needle won’t be an easy task, but so far it seems clear McCarthy and the House will not accept any compromise that doesn’t include spending cuts.  We agree with Representative Biggs that we need to stop deficit spending, not just slowing the increase. For the sake of the nation and our children, we pray the Biden Administration and the Democrat-controlled Senate will be the first to  blink.  The House leadership needs to stand firm. 

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