As the debt ceiling debate heats up, politicians on all sides of the discussion are putting down stakes. Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) began laying down his demands to the President in an op-ed published on National Review Onlinel.
To his credit, Senator McConnell outlined an articulate response to the President’s declaration that Washington should not cut spending in return for raising the debt ceiling. He cited historical examples of deficit reduction being traded for raising the ceiling, and pointed out the false claim that raising taxes will do enough to dent future debt levels. He also called out his Democratic colleagues for not having a budget for four consecutive years.
However, there was one thing lacking in Senator McConnell’s directive to the President to cut spending: actual spending cuts. The only mention of specifics came near the end of the Senator’s op-ed (emphasis added):
The President and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it. In the coming weeks, both sides could quickly agree on many reforms that the public would support. Some — like requiring wealthy retirees to pay more for Medicare, or changing how federal benefits are adjusted for inflation — are ideas President Obama has already endorsed. Rather than having another conversation about these things, he should show the kind of leadership the moment calls for and simply sign these and other reforms into law.
This is the problem in Washington. Many people talk the talk about cuts, tax reform, etc. When push comes to shove, however, few are willing to actually step up to the plate and push for politically risky – but financially necessary – spending cuts and reforms. It is understandable that Senator McConnell does not want to show all of his cards too soon in the debt ceiling discussions, but his failure to include any specific cuts looks like the typical empty rhetoric of Washington..
Finding the cuts is not hard. Eliminating farm and energy subsidies, for example, would cut one percent from the federal budget. Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) five-year balanced budget — which Senator McConnell voted for, to his credit — eliminates whole departments. Heritage’s Saving the American Dream plan and Senator Coburn’s (R-OK) Back in Black proposal have other substantial cuts and reforms the Senator could have called for.
Tea Party Patriots reached out to Senator McConnell’s office with several questions about the lack of specific cuts and reforms in the op-ed. According to the Senator’s spokesperson, the Senator has articulated substantive reforms to Social Security and Medicare in the past, including on NBC News on January 6 of this year. At that time, the Senator said he wanted President Obama to formally support a Chained CPI, which changes how Social Security benefits are indexed. He also said he wanted “serious means testing for high income people” and wanted to increase the Medicare retirement age.
When asked if the Senator would name specific cuts or reforms that would have to be included to get his vote in any deal to raise the debt ceiling, the spokesperson pointed to a floor speech by Senator McConnell where he said “We cannot agree to increase that borrowing limit without agreeing to reforms that lower the avalanche of spending that’s creating this debt in the first place…” The spokesperson also said the Senator will “have more to say about what specifically would be required to get his vote very soon.” Finally, Tea Party Patriots asked what direct cuts the Senator will support in the short-term in order to reassure the American people that the kind of can kicking we saw in the fiscal cliff deal (where Congress ignored spending reductions made into law only 16 months earlier). The spokesperson said “Senator McConnell will continue to fight to keep the sequester’s deficit reduction in place,” and cited a floor speech by the Senator where he decried the inability of Congress to “fix the easy stuff – the robo-squirrels and the robot DJs – the things most of us agree on…”
While it is good that Senator McConnell is holding the President accountable for his evasion of duty, the lack of specifics in the NRO op-ed when it comes to stopping the overspending in Washington is concerning. Tea Party Patriots is interested to see if Senator McConnell will step up and push for real cuts and reforms, as his spokesperson stated. If the Senator stands for the kind of changes needed in the federal budget, he will find support for them. If not, Tea Party activists will continue to hold him responsible for the “avalanche of spending” that continues to take place.