Starting tomorrow, the House will turn its attention to something called the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act,” the House Republicans’ solution to the debt-ceiling standoff. Given the fact the plan has become the centerpiece of the GOP policy agenda, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what’s in it — and what its contents tell us about the extremism of the Republican Party.
To call this plan “extreme” is almost a comical understatement. Remember the radicalism of Paul Ryan’s budget plan? “Cut, Cap, and Balance” makes Ryan’s plan look centrist by comparison.
This approach would cap all federal spending at 18% of GDP, and would slash more than $110 billion from the budget this year, a priority that appears designed to make unemployment much worse almost immediately. “Cut, Cap, and Balance” also, of course, includes a constitutional amendment to prohibit deficits, and would make it almost impossible for any Congress to ever raise taxes on anyone ever again.
The Pentagon budget would be untouched, and the budget wouldn’t bring in so much as a penny in new revenue
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Bob Greenstein explained:
The “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act” that the House of Representatives will vote on [this] week stands out as one of the most ideologically extreme pieces of major budget legislation to come before Congress in years, if not decades. It would go a long way toward enshrining Grover Norquist’s version of America into law. It is so extreme that even the budget plan of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan would not fully satisfy its requirements — the Ryan plan’s budget cuts wouldn’t be severe enough.
The bill also would threaten the U.S. government with default and would likely cause the loss of roughly 700,000 jobs in the year ahead. In addition, the bill would target programs for the poor for cuts, while protecting tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful.
The plan is a caricature of Republican priorities — it’s something liberals might come up with as an exaggeration to make the GOP look ridiculous — and yet, it’s all too real. In a practical sense, its passage would guarantee the dismantling of the federal government.
But its passage is impossible. The Democratic Senate and Democratic White House oppose the entire package, and there’s no way to get a two-thirds majority for a preposterous constitutional amendment in both chambers.
And yet, the truly ridiculous plan will dominate Capitol Hill this week. The House will take it up tomorrow, and the Senate will go through the motions of bringing it to the floor for a vote this week, too.
If you’re wondering why Congress would waste valuable time on an insane “Cut, Cap, and Balance” proposal when there’s only two weeks until the nation exhausts its ability to pay America’s bills, the answer isn’t entirely satisfying: Republicans insist upon it. They demand that they get this out of their system — right now — before actual solutions can be considered.
To be sure, GOP officials know “Cut, Cap, and Balance” will fail. They’re demanding votes in both chambers anyway, basically because the votes will make them feel better about themselves.
“The Republicans are insisting this debate take place before anything happens,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said yesterday. “We have to check the boxes.”
Oddly enough, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was surprisingly candid about this point late last week, explaining that his chamber will take up “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” it will fail, and then lawmakers could move on to more viable alternatives. “Let’s get through that vote and then we’ll make decisions about what will come after,” he said.
It’s tempting to think adults who serve in Congress wouldn’t feel the need to vote on radical symbolism with the economy on the line. The importance of Republicans’ emotional sensibilities just doesn’t seem worth all this nonsense. But that assumes the House Republican caucus still has a few grown-ups. It doesn’t.