Cross-posted from Liberty Central.
Obviously, balancing the federal budget is a worthy goal – an extremely important one, in fact. Congress has massively increased spending, to the point that the United States is projected to run inordinately high deficits for years to come. The problem is one of historic proportions. It would be a welcome change if this Congress were to consider a package of spending cuts before the election, designed to restore the nation’s long-term fiscal balance.
But Congressional leaders and the White House recognize that it might be unpopular to push for spending cuts or tax increases before an election. They are deeply worried about the political impact of a controversial vote – one that might lead to catastrophic losses for the majority party. So rather than doing something gutsy, they are shifting responsibility to an unelected commission, and deferring a vote until a lame duck session of Congress:
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad says a legislative session after the Nov. 2 election and before the new Congress is sworn in could be “one of the most significant lame-duck sessions in the history of the United States.”
In an interview with CongressDaily, Conrad referred specifically to the prospect of votes on the recommendations of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission, which is due to report on Dec. 1. Conrad, who is on the panel, believes it could help lead the country to a sounder fiscal path.
That sentiment is echoed by Senate Budget ranking member Judd Gregg, also a commission member. Gregg even suggests the lame duck could trump the historic vote on healthcare reform, which he opposed, if the commission’s recommendations are meaningful and Congress embraces them.
The American people are expected to deliver a stinging rebuke to the current leadership on election day. If Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid suddenly become convinced that spending has gotten out of hand, they might take action before election day to change the disastrous course that the nation is on.
One action that should not be taken is to vote on a massive package of tax increases and spending cuts once a new Congress has been elected, but before that new Congress is sworn in. Some reports suggest that the debt commission recommendations could total $100 trillion in new taxing and spending decisions. These decisions should not be decide by an unaccountable body filled with dozens of retiring and defeated Members of Congress. If Congress lacks the will to make difficult decisions before an election, they should leave such decisions to the new Congress to tackle.
And besides the risk of allowing a lame duck Congress to vote on these recommendations with little public debate, a lame duck session would also be an occasion for plenty of other mischief. According to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, cap and trade could be passed in a lame duck session. And Harry Reid himself is considering votes on amnesty, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and ENDA as well. We need to put an end to plans for a lame duck session.