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Hats off to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
He has played a relatively weak hand masterfully throughout these debt-ceiling talks.
Eight weeks ago we had a president who was throwing a hissy fit and insistent that he would never negotiate any deal on the debt ceiling — even though he was the one who as vice president under President Barack Obama negotiated the 2011 debt-ceiling deal.
McCarthy outmaneuvered the White House and has negotiated a deal that has valuable concessions that conservatives have demanded: strict spending caps for 2024, a green light on new energy permitting, no new student-loan bailouts, reinstituting work requirements for welfare, a rescission of some $50 billion of unspent COVID money and new limits on President Biden’s job-killing regulations.
More cuts to make
These are all modest improvements in the right direction, although House Republican budget hawks like Chip Roy of Texas are right that many trillions more in cuts will be necessary.
And it’s highly disappointing McCarthy didn’t insist on defunding Biden’s 87,000 new IRS hit squad that — as under Obama — will surely target conservatives.
Still, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who has fought many of these battles, calls this deal “an historic first step toward shifting government back toward common sense and conservatism.”
Like most conservatives, I’d have liked to see tougher spending cuts, but the reality right now is Republicans only control one-half of one branch of government.
Reality check: The only way to get more progress in restoring fiscal sanity is to get a new president elected in 2024.
So what comes next? McCarthy is facing a mini-revolt from his most conservative members, many of whom are likely to vote no.
Before the rest of the Republican caucus lines up to vote for an agreement that raises the debt ceiling by trillions more, McCarthy should insist that Biden round up a majority of House and Senate Democrats and walk the plank first.
Left flank’s firehose
After all, it was the Bernie Sanders Democrats who ran the debt and spending into the stratosphere by more than $5 trillion when they held all the levers of power in 2021 and 2022.
Their social-welfare and Green New Deal spending blowout happened AFTER the COVID crisis was over and was roughly the equivalent of the price tag for winning World War II.
Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer bulldozed most of these bills through Congress without a single Republican vote in the House and Senate.
Republicans aren’t blameless for the runaway spending that plagues Washington. But why should they be held responsible for raising the debt ceiling to accommodate debt spending they never supported?
Why should the Republicans be the ones on clean-up duty after the most financially reckless drunken spending bender in modern times?
It’s been Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and congressional Democrats who have been running around the country scaring the financial markets by falsely claiming we will face financial Armageddon without passing a debt-ceiling hike in the next week. Let’s see if they believe their own rhetoric.
McCarthy stated over the weekend that he expects more than 95% of House Republicans will vote yes on the 99-page bill. But it should be 95% of Democrats who supply the votes for passage.
They are the ones who have been falsely proclaiming that it will be Armageddon if it isn’t passed by June 5.
They are the ones who broke the bank of the budget. They should provide the votes to fix it.
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.