If the Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, opt for a deal with the Democrats to aim for big spending cuts, in two phases, but to raise the debt limit so it is out of the way until after the 2012 elections, how do we make Obama agree to cuts?
The current discussions focus on triggers which would automatically impose cuts in programs near and dear to both party’s hearts — Medicare for the Democrats and Defense of the Republicans — if the spending cuts are not realized. But these triggers mean next to nothing. What a Congress passes, another Congress can repeal. One can easily see Congress not coming to agreement on the second wave of cuts and then passing a resolution to suspend the trigger-mandated cuts.
The blunt fact is that once the debt limit is raised until after the election, Obama can get out of town and not worry anymore. He won’t make any cuts. We’ll get the cuts we are implementing right now — about a trillion over ten years — and no more.
But there is a trigger which can work — the budget itself.
If the Continuing Resolution passed in the spring was battle one (which Obama won) and the debt limit was battle two (which the GOP has won), the budget for 2011-12 is battle three.
The Republicans should refuse to pass a budget but just pass a new Continuing Resolution funding the government through January 1, 2012. If the recommendations of the spending cut commission are not passed or some other cuts have not replaced them, the House should refuse to extend the Continuing Resolution and should trigger a government shutdown.
The looming threat of a shutdown will terrify Obama and will force his hand just as the debt limit has done.
We have gotten half a loaf in this current battle over the debt. Let’s not disarm until we win the rest of it. What we haven’t gotten in the debt deal, we can get in the budget deal.
That’s the trigger which will work.