Congress Asserts Itself, Again, In the Debt Debate – Washington D.C. Trip Report

The President, speaking from the East Room of the White House, last night, asking Americans to “call your Congress person”.  In a rare moment of bi-partisanship, leaders of Congress seem to have told President Obama that the debt ceiling will get raised when they get it done and send it to him for signature.

The original signers of the Constitution must be gathered at their favorite heavenly pub and cheering?   This is the way they envisioned government functioning.    And that’s just the way the current Congressional leadership – Republican and Democrat — like it, too.

A fact driven home during my visit to the new Capitol Visitor Center last week while I was in Washington DC to attend a business women’s conference (Alley to the Valley).

The first exhibit in the Visitor Center Exhibit Hall explains Constitutional  government of the new republic.    The visitor’s eye is immediately drawn to the center of the display.  There is a large gold and black organization chart where Congress is alone in a big box (30 point type) and there are two smaller subordinate boxes labeled “Executive” and “Judicial” hanging off Congress –  (in 15 point type).

The exhibit goes on to explain that the two separate Houses of Congress serve different purposes.

  • The House of Representatives closest and most accountable to the people they represent.
  • The Senate less driven by bi-annual elections more deliberative and “mature” – that’s their word.

Yes, say our Founding Fathers who are congratulating themselves in their heavenly pub, the system is still working – mostly the way that we intended it.   It’s about time – after 45 years of the “Imperial Presidency”.

Color me an optimist, but I like the approach that Senators Reid and McConnell and Speaker Boehner are suggesting.

  • Pass legislation that raises the Debt Ceiling to reassure the world markets and the rating agencies that the USA takes paying our bills seriously.
  • Pass legislation that establishes two bi-partisan Joint Congressional Committees to study the issues of entitlement reform and tax reform and report to the floor of Congress in six months.
  • Reform legislation means an actual Congressional bill that can be read and understood by the American people, scored by the Congressional Budget Office.   The debate and vote are held in the open.

It is important that Congress be responsible for developing the reforms for four reasons.

  1. Congress is always either a part of the solution or a part of the problem, whatever the issue.
    • It is much easier to say no – on both the right and the left – when presented with someone else’s “deal” than it is to say “no” after participating in the discovery and the debate.
    • Besides solving the People’s problems is their job, their only job!
  2. President Obama’s second term, assuming that he will be re-elected, will expire 6 years before a 10 year deal on debt, deficits, and entitlements expires.
    • If the President is not re-elected, his successor will be gone, at minimum,  two years before the deal expires
    • Many of the members of Congress will, for better or worse, still be serving in Congress – still accountable, in 2022,  for the commitments they make in 2011.
  3. The Congressional Budget Office can calculate the true value of a Congressional bill.  It cannot calculate the true revenue from tax reform or the actual expense for entitlement reform from a
    • proposal by the Senate Gang of 6 or
    • the “big deal” from President Obama and Speaker Boehner – whatever it really is
    • or a Presidential speech
    • or the Biden talks
    • or any other hypothetical, closed door negotiation
  4. Most importantly, voters can fire every member of Congress and 1/3 of Senate in 2012 –
    • if they do not succeed in both increasing revenue and preserve entitlements, fairly, and
    • in a way that contributes to sustained economic growth and, long-term, a more balanced budget.

Balancing the budget is not about Constitutional Amendments  It is about rebalancing the economy between production and consumption to create the jobs that produce the tax revenue that will balance the budget.

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