The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 9, 2013

Our View: Wrong center of debate

The Joplin Globe

— Now that the “fiscal cliff” is behind us, the next round of debate will be over the debt ceiling. But, in our view, that’s the wrong place to center the argument.

Of course we must pay old bills. Even members of the tea party agree with the fiscal responsibility of paying old bills. If we must borrow money to do that, then so be it, borrow the money.

We have not had a knockdown, drag-out budget argument in Congress now for about four years. The president has provided (as required by law) a budget proposal, and each one has been voted down or ignored. The House has passed “budget” bills, and the Senate has ignored each one with no debate and no vote. Instead, the country has been run piecemeal with continuing resolutions for four years.

It is ridiculous to have an argument every year or so over the debt limit. But because the budget and appropriations process has failed — miserably — limiting the debt ceiling increase has now become the only way to try (but still fail) to limit future spending.

President Obama has consistently provided budget proposals that will never pass in Congress. His budgets are not even a basis for any constructive debates over what should be paid for various programs. What if, for example, Congress demanded that the president submit a balanced budget request? Congress has the power of the purse, not the president. Why not use that power to demand that the president propose only payment for programs that are affordable?

The president could then submit, as part of his budget proposal, an addendum showing “extra” payments, deficit payments required for the coming year.

Such a process forces the president to lead. Congress can then decide whether to follow.