If anyone has any illusions that the new Congress would be better than the old Congress, it is time to get professional help. The old 112th Congress took us to the brink of a government shutdown twice. First it was over funding for Planned Parenthood and secondly over its refusal to raise the debt ceiling.
The new 113th Congress was sworn in at noon on January 3rd and already Republicans Senators and Congressmen are making threats to shut down the government rather than raise the debt ceiling.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said shutting down the government is the way to solve its problems. He wrote that in the Houston Chronicle.
“It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately”, he wrote sending a threat the president.
Cornyn did not say what a “partial” shutdown of government means. It is safe to assume that Congress would not be on the list. Senators and House Members would continue to receive their bloated salaries, taxpayer-funded health care, travel allowances, and other perks. Only the hardworking public servants would be made to suffer.
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said on a Sunday morning talk show last week that he would rather see the government suffer fiscal ruin than raise the debt ceiling unless Social Security and Medicare are cut.
Other Republicans have said that they will not raise the debt ceiling without entitlement cuts and cuts in other programs they dislike like food stamps, healthcare, education, environmental protection, Tsunami monitoring, and green energy.
Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) held a news conference on the Capitol steps insisting that the debt ceiling was not going to be raised MSNBC reported. In doing so she showed her lack of knowledge of the Constitution and how the federal government operates. She inferred that the entire $16 trillion dollar U.S. debt was run up by President Obama who she said “pulled out a credit card, ran up debt, and now wants to pull out another card to pay for his reckless spending.”
It seems no one told the Congresswoman that under the Constitution only Congress can appropriate or spend money. The president can request money, but only Congress can provide it. She is also unaware that the day Obama took office the debt was already $13 trillion and the lion’s share of that debt was run up by Republicans, or at the request of Republican presidents.
Republicans are misleading the public on the debt ceiling is. They want Americans to believe that when the debt ceiling is raised the president is spending more money. That is flatly not true, and they know it. Congresswoman Lummis might not, but Senators Graham and Cornyn do.
Except for when Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was president, nearly every Congress since World War II operated in the red. They spent more than the government takes in. Some of that was money was “borrowed” from Social Security, the Postal Service pension fund, and other government trust funds. Some was borrowed through the sale of bonds.
These bonds and the money the government “borrows” from itself along with the interest owed makes up the national debt. That debt is money Congress, not any president, appropriated and spent.
The debt ceiling is a level set by Congress on how much money in total debt the Treasury can incur without coming to Congress. It is not new spending! It is paying the bills Congress committed us to year after year, decade after decade by deficit spending. Less than 20% of that occurred while Obama occupied the White House contrary to the picture Republicans like to paint.
Even if Congress wants to stop deficit spending tomorrow, it must pay the bills it committed our faith and credit to. It must raise the debt ceiling to do so. This has nothing to do with new spending.
The very same Republicans who voted to run up trillions in deficits over the last decade want to shut down the government rather than pay the bills they ran up. That is what is really going on. The rest is political bovine waste.
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