Government Bytes


Some Democrats Joining Adult Conversation Over Debt Limit

by Brandon Greife / /

"Adultconversation” and “serious debate” have become the top political buzzwords overthe past couple of months.

PresidentObama said in February that his “hope is that what’s different this time is wehave an adult conversation where everybody says, “Here’s what’s important andhere’s how we’re going to pay for it.” Representative Paul Ryan echoed thecall, “The fiscal commission gave us hope that we were going to finally havethat adult conversation in Washington about how we preempt our debt and deficitcrisis.”

Apparently seriousadults are rare in Washington. If that’s the case, they must be bordering onextinction among the liberal pundits, journalists and bloggers who have beencovering the deficit battle.

This hasbecome no more clear than in the coverage over the debt ceiling debate. Thedebt ceiling is a cap set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal governmentcan legally borrow. The ceiling currently stands at an eye-popping $14.294trillion. The utter ridiculousness of that number and the sad fact that we’reconstantly exceeding it has engendered some serious concern by conservatives.

They arguethat the debt limit vote provides the necessary kick-in-the-pants thatWashington needs to pass some real cuts and reforms so that we’re not rightback here in six months talking about the debt limit again. A pretty sensibleargument. Even President Obama thinks so. In an interview with the AssociatedPress, Obama said“I think it’s absolutely right that [the debt limit vote is] not going tohappen without some spending cuts.”

Ah, soundslike the beginning of an adult conversation. We agree on the end goal, now let’sset about working out the details. And then the pundits got involved.

Take forexample what Progressive Paul Waldman wrotein the American Prospect earlier thisweek:

The reason we're now seeing anunprecedented amount of attention paid to a vote that ordinarily passes withlittle notice is that the Republican Party's agenda is being set by a group ofideological radicals who seem quite willing to cripple the American economy ifthat's what it takes to strike a blow against the government they hate so much.

And now we’re back to the kiddies’table, bickering over who gets the next turn on the Xbox.

Sadly, Waldman is not alone. With anunderstanding that succeeding in Washington is often about who can yell theloudest, rather than who can speak the most truthfully, liberals have pulledout their bullhorns. Their strategy is transparent enough: Use Armageddon-ishlanguage to describe what happens if the debt limit isn’t raised, then blameany Republican attempt to reduce spending as a ploy to kill the economy.

Mature discourse? No. Would it haveworked anyway? Possibly. Until today, when the second part of their plan got trouncedworse than the San Antonio Spurs in this year’s playoffs. From today’s WashingtonPost:

A growing number of Democrats are threatening to defy the White Houseover the national debt, joining Republican calls for deficit cuts as arequirement for consenting to lift the country’s borrowing limit.

The push-back has come in recent days from Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.),chairman of the SenateBudget Committee, and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.),a freshman who is running for reelection next year. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)told constituents during the Easter recess that he would not vote to lift thedebt limit without a “real and meaningful commitment to debt reduction.”

Evenstalwart White House allies like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said thedebt-ceiling vote should be tied to deficit reduction. And Sen. Mark Udall(D-CO) went as far as to say,“As catastrophic as it would be to fail to raise our debt ceiling, it’s evenmore irresponsible to not take this opportunity to own up to our unsustainablespending path.”

More andmore people are joining the adult conversation, understanding that our deficitproblems are just too big to ignore. There’s always room at the table. Let’shope some others are willing to set aside their partisan bombastry and help ussolve our spending problems.