Turning Up the Budget Pressure
You know, it would be very easy to make fun of Orange John Boehner and the House Republicans over their capitulation this past Wednesday on the debt ceiling.
You may have missed the story, because the media were more obsessed in the past week with a much more important story - namely, "Who knew that Beyonce lip-synced the national anthem, and when did they know it?"
So in case you've forgotten what the debt ceiling fuss was about, let's review.
First, just as they did during the fake "fiscal cliff" crisis, the so-called "deficit hawks" of the GOP blustered and puffed up their chests and insisted that yes, by golly, they were perfectly willing to destroy the country's credit rating and plunge us back into recession if they didn't get massive spending cuts in exchange for agreeing to pay the bills we already have.
Then, when the president said he wasn't going to knuckle under or negotiate again in the face of that kind of terrorism, they went completely hysterical, howled, "OMG! OBAMA IS WORSE THAN HITLER!" and vowed a fight to the death. So, as you can no doubt see, it'd be easy to mock them when they meekly cave in and pass a three-month extension of the debt ceiling without a single spending cut.
But I'm not going to do that.
I'm not going to do that because I think that on the rare occasion that the Republicans act like grownups, they ought to be commended for it. Besides, the one condition they did come up with actually contains the seed of a good idea.
The bill contains a provision that any house of Congress that doesn't pass a budget by April 15 doesn't get its pay. Unfortunately, the 27th Amendment says that "No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened," so the best they could probably do would be to temporarily withhold their salaries - not, say, donate them to Planned Parenthood or the NRA or something like that.
But hey, it's a start. And at long last, we'll finally get the Republicans to do two things: (1) admit that while the president can propose a budget (and has), budgets are made by the legislative branch, and that talking about "Obama's spending" is disingenuous at best; and (2) finally come clean on exactly what it is they want to cut.
Up until now, the GOP line has been, "You Democrats have to give us spending cut proposals, so they look like your idea." They do this because they know if people saw what they really want to cut, they'd be even less popular than they are now. But now they're stuck, which is a good thing.
The only problem I have with the "no budget, no pay" idea is that under the current proposal, if one of the houses comes up with a budget, any budget, its members get paid. There's no real incentive for the Republican-controlled House to come up with a budget they know has a chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, and vice versa.
Indeed, both the House's Paul Ryan and the Senate's Patty Murray have vowed to quickly come up with proposed budgets, each of which is pretty much guaranteed to give the other house's majority party the hives.
So here's my idea: If a budget isn't passed by both houses and signed by the president by April 15, nobody gets paid. Not the senators, not the representatives, not the president. No Democrats, no Republicans, no independents. If they don't come up with something everyone can live with by May 1, then the sergeants-at-arms of both houses will be ordered to remove all the chairs from the House and Senate chambers and all legislative offices. Let 'em work standing up. (I confess, I stole this last part from a legendary tale of a crusty old judge trying to motivate a hung jury to make a decision.)
If that doesn't work, by May 15, we chain the chamber doors shut with all of them inside. No budget by June 1? Cut off the air conditioning. If you've ever been in D.C. in the summer, you know what that means. We'll either get a budget arrived at by fair negotiation and compromise, or we'll need to elect a new Congress.
Frankly, I could go for either one.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. Contact him at dustyr@ nc.rr.com.
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