“We can’t stop it. He’s in league with the Democrats.”
That was U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie’s (R-Ky.) reaction to a deal by outgoing House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the White House to suspend the debt ceiling until March 2017.
The measure is expected to require Democrat votes to get across the finish line, and opened up fresh wounds in the House Republican Conference that has been reeling since Boehner’s announced retirement on Sept. 25.
The legislation, in addition to lifting the debt limit, also ends budget sequestration by increasing domestic and defense spending by $80 billion the next two years above the spending caps. And it bails out the Social Security Disability Trust Fund, which the program’s trustees had reported was set to run out of funds in late 2016.
“The irony is that Boehner’s only major achievement as Speaker was budget sequestration that slowed down the growth of the debt for three years. Sadly that achievement is wiped away by this parting shot. It is rare that an outgoing Speaker would take an eraser to his own legacy,” Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning noted in a statement.
Even presumed incoming Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) blasted the deal, saying on CNN, “I think the process stinks. This is not the way to do the people’s business, and under new management, we are not going to do the people’s business this way. We are up against a deadline. That’s unfortunate. But going forward, as a conference, we should have been meeting months ago to discuss these things, to have a unified strategy going forward.”
Unfortunately for Ryan, except for two upcoming continuing resolutions, there might not be that much else for the new Speaker to work on before the November 2016 elections.
And he has nobody to thank but John Boehner, who had hinted on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sept. 27 that he would be legislating aggressively prior to leaving. “I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there,” Boehner had said.
What he apparently really meant was he intended to run the table on K Street’s agenda.
Since then, the House has passed a two-month continuing resolution. Ok, fine, there probably was not enough time to convene a Speaker election prior to Sept. 30 when funding for parts of the government ran out.
Boehner also allowed Republican members to sign a discharge petition to renew the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which has now passed, without any overt consequence.
Discharge petitions are exceedingly rare, as they tend to override the committees of jurisdiction. In this case, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) had bottled up the Ex-Im Bank’s reauthorization in committee. The charter had even lapsed on June 30. But no more. Boehner let the renewal fly through, otherwise the discharge petition never gets to 218.
The House also passed a so-called Default Prevention Act that fails to prevent default because it does not actually guarantee payment of principal and interest on all the government’s trust funds should the national debt ceiling be reached. This failure fuels Democrat narratives that Republicans will default on obligations to seniors in the Medicare trust fund and veterans in the military retirement fund. And it once again cedes congressional leverage on the debt ceiling, which was put in place as a check against limitless borrowing, not to be a loaded gun for a president to threaten Congress with default every time it is not increased. It leads one to question whether the legislation is designed to fail.
And the House just passed an Obamacare budget reconciliation bill that fails to repeal Obamacare — even though Obama was going to veto it anyway — by leaving in place $1.5 trillion for the health care law’s Medicaid expansion and insurance exchange subsidies.
Overall, it is a strategy that denies conservatives a single policy victory — on anything — and saddles incoming Speaker Paul Ryan with a legacy that will make holding Republican majorities in the House and Senate in 2016 that much more difficult.
The truth is, Ryan could have tried to stop much of this nonsense if he really wanted with a single trip to the microphone, by demanding a halt to any other major legislation prior to taking the gavel. Instead, he made demands to run without opposition and to make it harder to depose an unaccountable, runaway House Speaker.
Now, how Ryan responds to this latest budget deal may come to define his Speakership — before he even assumes the post. Pretending he has nothing to do with it when he is not leading any charge to stop it strains credibility.
The fact is this debt ceiling pact will hamper Ryan’s ability to limit the size and scope of government over the last 14 months of the Obama administration. It even led one member to accuse Boehner of being in league with the Democrats. So, what is Ryan going to do about it?
This is a guest post by Robert Romano senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.
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