House Republicans have improved their debt ceiling bill so that it now meets the most important yardstick demanded by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in his futile negotiations with President Barack Obama. After the Congressional Budget Office scored the original bill, it turned out that the cuts in federal spending were not as large as originally predicted and therefore were not larger than the increase in the debt ceiling authorized in the bill.
The CBO has now scored the revised bill, and it meets Boehner’s test. The bill will raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion and cut spending by $917 billion.
As Speaker Boehner and others in the House Republican leadership have made clear, these cuts do not solve the federal government’s fiscal crisis. Huge, additional cuts in federal spending are going to be necessary in the years ahead. This bill takes a big step, but only a first step.
The bad news is that so far President Obama seems unwilling to take any step at all to get spending under control. He talks about cuts, but he has not demanded any level of spending cuts. Instead, his only demand is that taxes must be increased. Given the anemic state of the economy, any tax increases at this point will further depress the economy and throw more people out of work. President Obama is leading the nation — straight off the cliff.
Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appears clueless, but then he always appears clueless and then often surprises by somehow getting something really bad through the Senate. If the House sends a debt ceiling bill with substantial real spending cuts to the Senate, then it will be up to the American people to provide some therapy for Reid and his Democratic colleagues.
Speaker Boehner and the rest of the House and Senate Republican leadership are working hard to pull America back from the brink of insolvency. They are going to need at least a little help from President Obama and the Senate Democrats, but it’s not clear whether the president and Senator Reid have yet realized that phony deals using smoke and mirrors to fool the American people aren’t going to work any more.