02.13.2014 0

The tea party repealed the debt limit? Really?

ObamaReidBoehnerquesterBy Robert Romano

Let the blame game begin.

The House of Representatives, led by House Speaker John Boehner, turned over control of that body to Nancy Pelosi and Democrats to pass a so-called clean debt limit extension — really it’s been suspended — until March 15, 2015.

The measure relied on Democrats to pass, which only 28 Republicans, including House leaders Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy, voted for.

And whose fault is that? Not the people who voted to suspend the debt limit, apparently. Why, it’s the tea party’s fault, of course!

So writes Townhall.com editor Conn Carroll in a piece entitled, “How the tea party repealed the debt limit.”

You read that right. Carroll explains: “by stubbornly refusing to endorse any plan to raise the debt limit, Tea Party Republicans cut their own party off at the knees. Since the House Republicans failed to unify behind a single ask, the fight against big government ended before it even began. And Obama won.”

The argument being made by Carroll, and elsewhere, is that there were too many hard noes against voting for an increase in the debt ceiling — under any circumstances.

Therefore it was impossible to add anything to a debt ceiling increase, whether it was doing something with Obamacare, or stopping IRS targeting the tea party, or even military veteran pension benefits that had been scaled back in the 2013 Ryan-Murray budget deal.

And maybe it is true. That no matter what, there was never going to be enough Republican votes to attach anything to the debt ceiling because too many members had staked out ground against increasing the nation’s credit limit.

That even if the bill had repealed Obamacare and tied it to debt ceiling, it would have failed — despite the fact that such a move if followed through on would save trillions of tax dollars in subsidies and in the process strengthen our economy.

That even if the bill had reined in IRS targeting of the tea party and other 501(c)(4) organizations tied to the debt limit, it would have failed — despite the fact that such a strategy might have been essential to preserving the First Amendment rights of those groups.

Color us skeptical that conditioning a debt ceiling increase to real reforms to Obamacare or at the IRS — i.e. using the power of the purse — would have been roundly rejected by the tea party. Such a claim is unbelievable.

It might have been a tough vote, but we’re confident that a public campaign to drum up support for such a strategy would have convinced members that constituents were supportive of using the leverage to achieve concessions.

After all, Cut, Cap, and Balance in 2011 — a plan that would have conditioned a debt ceiling increase on passage of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget be put to the states for ratification — passed overwhelmingly in the House and had the full support of the tea party. There was a strong consensus for that.

To follow this logic through, Cut, Cap, and Balance would not pass again. And that since 2011, tea party members have somehow lost interest in utilizing the congressional power of the purse to achieve real change.

Except there’s no proof. Who are these members? What are their names? We have to take John Boehner’s word for it there was not 218 Republicans to get something big done.

House leaders didn’t allow any amendments to their “clean” debt ceiling bill to do something about Obamacare or the IRS or anything else. Nor did they make a case to do any those things.

What happened was leaders couldn’t find the votes for their fix on military veterans’ benefits — a minimalist ask compared to dealing with Obamacare or the IRS — and so leaders just gave up. They didn’t even try anything else.

So, sorry, you don’t get to blame members or the tea party for “blocking” real reform when there was not even a single vote held that constituents might be able to hold their representatives accountable for.

Attach Cut, Cap, and Balance, or repeal Obamacare, or stop the IRS to the debt ceiling, hold a vote, let whoever these members are block it, and then you can complain about it.

Otherwise it’s just a convenient straw man when the real reason nothing was accomplished was because leadership did not want a real fight over the debt limit.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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