Yesterday I quoted the Congressional Record dated July 28, 2011.
Rep. James McGovern (D – MA) rose to speak about the Cut, Cap, and Balance budget plan offered by Republicans who were refusing to raise the debt ceiling, hoping to coerce the Democrats into a consent agreement. That’s how extortion works. The Democrats could give in to the extortionists' demands or face the irreparable damage a debt default would do to the economy.
What Rep. McGovern described, shows how the Republicans betrayed their malevolent intentions when Boehner called his caucus into an educational meeting for them to learn about Cut, Cap & Balance. A clip from a recent Ben Affleck film, “The Town” was shown.
“And yesterday, in a meeting of the Republican conference, their leadership tried to rally votes for this bill by playing a clip from the movie, ``The Town.'' The quote they used--and I guess this was supposed to be inspirational--was this: ``I need your help. I can't tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we're gonna hurt some people.''
Dozens of House members rose to speak that day about the people who would be hurt by the Republicans’ plan. Here's one example.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D – ME) Mr. Speaker, about an hour ago, I met with a wonderful group of religious and civic leaders from around this country. After our meeting, they walked into the Capitol Rotunda, they got down on their knees to pray, and at this moment, they are being arrested.
They were praying for those who will be hurt the hardest by the bill that we are considering today. They were praying for seniors who will face rising costs for their prescription drugs. They were praying for low-income Americans who depend on heating assistance to stay warm in the winter. They were praying for working families who already struggle to make ends meet and find a way to send their kids to college. They were praying for the millions of Americans who don’t have high-priced lobbyists to protect them.
The sequestration budget cuts that have so much media attention today, were hardly noticed when they were written into the Republican and Democratic proposals that would eventually become the Budget Control Act of 2011.
The sequester language was ready to be added to Boehner’s Cut, Cap and Balance plan on July 27, 2011, which contradicts the tales told by liars. Where the idea of sequestration originated was of little importance to anyone in Congress when a debt default was just a few days away.
As the deadline for debt default approached, the members of Congress were arguing about familiar topics: tax cuts for the rich, Social Security, Medicare, the cost of social safety net programs, a balanced budget, the deficit and the debt.
One House member who must have been keeping notes offered his recap of events:
Rep. Peter Welch (D - VT) There were negotiations that were promising.Friday, July 22, was the day “the grand bargain” died. A week later, on Friday, July 29, with the clock running out, the Republicans had moved the goal posts by adding a balanced budget Constitutional amendment to their proposal. On that date, the Republicans passed Cut, Cap and Balance with 218 votes, not one to spare. There were zero Democratic votes in favor. The Republicans who voted against the bill were the hardest of the hard core tea partiers: people like Bachmann, Broun, Chaffetz, Huelskamp, King (IA), Walsh, Wilson, et al.
• In May, the Biden group began negotiations to avert a crisis.
• On May 16, the U.S. hit the debt ceiling, and Treasury moved money around to avert the August 2 deadline.
• June 23, the majority leader, Mr. Cantor, walked out because revenues were on the table.
• July 3, President Obama and Speaker Boehner meet to work out a ``grand bargain'' deal. It was very promising, $4 trillion in deficit reduction by combining revenues as well as cuts. President Obama, incidentally, put on the table things that were giving enormous heartburn to many Democrats, but he said, We have to compromise for the greater good.
• The Speaker indicates on July 9 that the ``grand bargain'' is unlikely due to differences on revenues, so he leaves.
• July 22, Mr. Boehner walks away from the debt talks, saying that we can't have revenue.
So now we have the bill. The bill is defective in this fundamental respect: It is going to damage the economy; $1 trillion in cuts, increasing on a short-term basis the debt ceiling, followed by $1.8 trillion that will hurt Medicare and Social Security. This is going to be very harmful for the economy.
The Republicans were fully aware that the Democrats in the Senate would never pass their bill. For one thing, the balanced budget amendment imposed a permanent supermajority on raising taxes. The proposal advanced by the Democrats in the Senate had no chance in the House either, even though it included most of the elements Republicans found acceptable before “the grand bargain” collapsed. The Republicans in the House had decided that there was leverage in standing at the brink of default.
On Saturday July 30, the Senate began to cobble together a last ditch effort for a bill that would somehow find enough support in both bodies of Congress to pass by the August 2 deadline for default. Each piece was held up and examined for inclusion or the trash heap. One Senator made a case for the sequester.
Senator Rob Portman (R – IN) The House plan responsibly makes much of this debt limit increase contingent on the [budget] cuts being actually approved and signed into law. If the President and Majority Leader Reid want the entire debt limit increase now, we would need some guarantee that this deficit reduction would actually take place. A commonsense compromise would be to add sequestration language, meaning you sequester across the board all spending, if the deficit reduction doesn’t work, deadlocks, or doesn’t pass on the floor even under these procedures. I would say you could limit that sequestration to the size of the debt limit increase, not even the size that Speaker Boehner has, which was $1.8 trillion.The sequester had never been center stage during the proceedings. Portman put it on the list of items that belonged in the last ditch effort. That doesn’t mean it was his idea. It doesn’t mean it was the President’s idea either. Whose idea it was is unimportant. As Portman explained, it was an element that the Republicans needed as a guarantee they’d get what they wanted, budget cuts, one way or another.
If anyone in the administration introduced the sequester, as Woodward claims, it wasn’t because it was part of the administration’s agenda. Again, I say if. If it was introduced as Woodward says, it was because the Republicans don’t hold up their end of negotiations. It’s a trap the President and his administration have stepped into too many times. When they step in to fill the void where an active, good faith, negotiating partner should be, it leaves them negotiating with themselves and it makes them appear complicit in the demands of Republicans.
In the proceedings, one senator provided a little history lesson.
Sen. Carl Levin (D- MI) Congress used this approach once before. In 1985 we passed Gramm-Rudman- Hollings, which set forth specific deficit targets and required cuts if those targets were not met. The framework for today’s legislation is based on that model. As one of the authors of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings act, Senator Gramm put it: It was never the objective of Gramm-Rudman to trigger the sequester; the objective of Gramm-Rudman was to have the threat of the sequester force compromise and action.Sen. Orrin Hatch’s retelling of the debt ceiling debacle is most notable.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R - UT) We are coming down to the wire here. We will soon be voting on a proposal that would couple some deficit reduction with an increase in the statutory debt limit. There are some positive features in this legislation, and the Senate’s minority leader, the Speaker of the House, and conservatives throughout the country should be commended for insisting on them.Later in the day, this snake voted against the bill.
First, the President asked for a clean debt limit increase, and conservatives refused. They held the line and made clear that any increase in the debt limit required matching deficit reduction.
Second, having lost the fight over a clean debt limit increase, the President insisted on a balanced approach to deficit reduction, by which he meant reducing the deficit by raising taxes. But conservatives again fought this back. They knew that the primary driver of our debt is spending. Regardless of the President’s talking points, nondefense discretionary spending is at historic levels. We are set for our third straight trillion dollar deficit. We have a national debt of $14.5 trillion, and the President’s budget would give us $13 trillion more in debt. The answer to this is not giving the government more money to spend.
And third, conservatives resisted the effort by the President’s allies to push most of the deficit reduction in this package down the road. So there are some achievements in this proposal that conservatives can hang their hat on.
Juxtapose the satisfaction Hatch expressed about the debacle with the angry letter he sent to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner On Aug. 12, complaining about how seniors suffered because of the debacle that he helped to create and bragged about.
“. . . you ask about the President’s assessment that failure to raise the debt limit “would risk sparking a deep economic crisis.” I strongly agree with that view.”Hatch even questioned the President’s statement once more in other angry letters he sent to the Financial Security Oversight Council on October 18.
Since Hatch brought it up, let’s take a look at what was unacceptable and needless.
It’s the Congress that has the authority to appropriate money for spending. It’s the Congress that has the authority to raise money by borrowing to pay for its spending.
The Constitution explicitly allows Congress to authorize spending and borrowing. No one else is authorized.
When Congress spends, it knows whether it will need to raise money by borrowing to pay the bill when it comes due. With the authority Congress has, it holds the ability to protect the full faith and credit of the United States or to destroy it. When Republicans in Congress refuse to raise the statutory debt limit, they threaten to destroy the full faith and credit, and they threaten to do irreparable harm to the American economy.
Let's walk through it. Step by step.
Stop The Republican Extortion In Congress.It begins just by naming it. It begins by calling it out. Use the name. Make no mistake about it. We know what it is. It's Extortion.
1. Raising the debt limit only allows the Treasury to pay the bills for the spending Congress authorized. 2. Not raising the debt limit is a refusal by Congress to pay the bills for the spending it authorized. 3. When Congress refuses to pay its bills, the full faith and credit of the United States is in jeopardy. 4. A refusal by Congress to pay its bills is inconsistent with upholding the Constitution. 5. There is no justification for Congress to refuse a debt limit increase. 6. There is no justification for Congress to refuse to pay its bills. 7. The Constitution provides legitimate means for partisans in Congress to enact the fiscal policies they favor. 8. The legitimate means requires consent of the majority consistent with democracy. 9. If partisans in Congress are unable to enact what they want, the Constitution doesn’t allow extortion or any other coercive means to be used as a substitute for the legitimate means. 10. The threat of default, used by the Republicans in Congress, is a mechanism meant to coerce the Democrats into a consent agreement that permits the Republicans to enact the policies that they couldn’t via legitimate means.