Faced with a rapidly approaching debt ceiling crisis on November 3, lawmakers have a big opportunity to secure much-needed savings for taxpayers.
The 2011 debt ceiling fight gained taxpayers the Budget Control Act (BCA) through dogged adherence to the “Boehner Rule,” which requires any increase in the debt limit be matched by equal or larger deductions in spending. Despite some tweaks and postponements, overall the BCA has been a boon for taxpayers: shrinking deficits, restraining the growth of spending, and saving almost $9,000 per household. Unfortunately, this trend of smaller deficits won’t last and more needs to be done to put the federal budget on sound footing.
The Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) “Terms of Credit Act: Budget, Work, and Grow” provides a similarly innovative legislative solution that would achieve serious savings and economic growth in exchange for a $1.5 trillion debt limit boost through March 2017. At the core of the package is the novel idea (by Washington standards) that budgets should be more than vision or messaging documents and should actually contain strong enforcement mechanisms for restraining government. Such a change would ensure that the pro-growth policies and significant spending reductions of the FY16 Budget Resolution move forward. In addition to imposing a rigorous work schedule with strict deadlines to ensure the work of Congress is completed, the package also requires a House vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment, a long-time priority for National Taxpayers Union.
Compounding our budgetary woes is a weakening economy bogged down by an increasingly burdensome regulatory regime. The RSC plan provides for a regulatory freeze from January 1, 2015 through July 1, 2017, preventing potentially costly lame duck, last-minute regulations.
In addition to the RSC plan, Congress should also pass Rep. Tom McClintock’s (R-CA) “Default Prevention Act,” H.R. 692. This vital legislation would eliminate the potential of a default on U.S. debt obligations and ensure stability in financial markets in the event that Congress needs extra time to consider the best path forward in dealing with the debt ceiling.
Looking ahead, the primary goal of legislators should be enacting the critical reforms necessary to avoid future debt ceiling crises and restore fiscal responsibility. As entitlement spending catastrophes loom, beginning the hard work of hammering out the legislative solutions Republicans have long-promised is the best path forward. And despite the House Speaker’s eminent departure, the “Boehner Rule” has never been more critical to avoid compounding the fiscal missteps that brought us to this precipice.