June 1, 2023 - 9:00 pm
Updated June 2, 2023 - 8:14 am
The debt deal drama moved to the Senate after the House easily passed the compromise agreement Wednesday between President Joe Biden and the GOP House. The upper chamber debated Thursday whether to allow amendments to the agreement, which would slow and possibly scuttle the legislation.
Not surprisingly, however, that option was soon rejected and a majority gritted their teeth and sent the proposal on to the president’s desk despite griping from both sides of the aisle.
Some of the criticism from budget hawks is certainly valid. But current political reality prevents anything more than baby steps when it comes to addressing the nation’s fiscal trajectory. The American voters have opted for divided government, which requires trade-offs.
There is an opportunity going forward, however, for Republicans to lay the groundwork for more substantive progress.
Polls show that most Americans prefer a more responsible fiscal course. A Harris survey conducted in April found that 60 percent of voters think that the government has too much debt and that federal spending should be frozen. Speaker Kevin McCarthy “delivered a deal that catches the broader public’s conservatizing drift,” argues Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal.
Compare that with what Democrats are offering as the national debt soars past $32 trillion and interest payments threaten to drown out other priorities. It’s little exaggeration to say that Democrats and the president have no appetite for restraining any aspect of the federal government. Witness the trillion-dollar Biden spending blowouts and the embrace by progressives of Modern Monetary Theory, which posits that Washington can’t go broke as long as it can print money fast enough to pay its debts.
The tired chorus that rises from the left is that GOP tax cuts have driven the nation deep into the red. But that’s a willful distortion. The problem isn’t that every few decades Republicans scrounge up enough votes to allow American workers to keep more of their hard-earned money. It’s that members of Congress, in an eternal quest to buy support, spend every dime and then some as soon as the money lands at the Treasury. It’s never enough when the goal is a universal entitlement state.
Washington has a spending addiction, not a revenue problem. The idea that the country can tax its way to prosperity without getting outlays under control is utter folly and a recipe for fiscal ruin. If the debt-ceiling debate has pushed voters to support a more sustainable approach to budgeting, Republicans should seize the opportunity to do more than just talk about fiscal responsibility.