By Lachlan Markay
Congressional Republicans are outraged at President Obama’s suggestion that Social Security beneficiaries might not get their checks in the event that the federal debt ceiling is not raised by August 2.
“Have you no shame, sir?” asked Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) in a short video posted to his website on Thursday. “President Obama, quit lying,” Walsh demanded. “You know darn well that if August second comes and goes, there’s plenty of money to pay off our debt and cover our social security obligations. And you also know that you and only you have the discretion to make those payments.”
Walsh went on to call for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and asked the president to encourage congressional Democrats to back the effort.
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Meanwhile, 13 freshman Senators, all Republicans, sent a letter to President Obama chastising him for “engag[ing] in political theater, demagoguery, and a dangerous game of political chicken” and for “threatening America’s most vulnerable citizens.”
The Senators also used the occasion to tout their “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan, which includes an balanced budget amendment, in addition to a statutory budget cap, and short-term spending cuts.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), one of the letter’s signatories, later called on President Obama to apologize for the statement. “I frankly thing the President should apologize,” he said at a press conference announcing the release of the Senators’ letter.
Popular support for a balanced budget amendment of some kind has been steadily strong. Three recent polls on the issue have found popular support for the measure to be 71 percent, 65 percent, and 65 percent.
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The Heritage Foundation’s Brian Darling released a report Thursday on the respective chambers’ proposals for constitutional amendments. The report concludes thusly:
These proposed balanced budget amendments differ on some fundamental issues that would dramatically affect the way Congress attempts to balance the budget. The House version, for example, is easier to waive. There is a lower threshold to declare military conflict in the House version that would allow for an easier waiver. Also, the tax limitation—forcing a two-thirds vote to increase taxes—would be waived in times of military conflict in the House version. The House version allows a lower supermajority threshold to pass an unbalanced budget than the Senate version does.
The Senate version makes it more difficult to enact revenue-neutral tax reform. The provision that forces a two-thirds vote to raise any tax would make it more difficult to modify the tax code in a revenue-neutral manner to implement a flat tax. For a flat tax to work, some Americans might have their tax rates increased as a means to make every American pay the same rate.
Also, neither version contains the complete ban on judicial enforcement that is necessary to prevent activist judges from setting budget priorities, which is a job reserved for the political branches of government.
The differences between the House and Senate BBAs may seem small to those who are not steeped in the budget process, but they will have a dramatic impact on the lives of all Americans. Ultimately, these differences would need to be reconciled in a manner that leads to a balanced budget without jeopardizing U.S. military interests or punishing taxpayers.