GOP leaders in Congress don’t want a balanced-budget amendment. The party which rails against government bureaucracy is counting on government bureaucracy to prevent them from successfully changing our founding documents. It’s perfect because they don’t actually want to amend the Constitution – well, not in a serious way. Maybe in a drunken, overly-clever, 1:30 AM in a Hill-adjacent dive bar kind of way: “The 28thAmendment should outlaw blue food on Wednesdays…that’d be hilarious!!”
Now the debt ceiling, originally a WWI cap on bonds the government could issue (back when Congress insisted on actually paying for wars), is the catalyst for yet another insincere call to pass a constitutional amendment. Since 1962 Congress has raised the debt ceiling 69 times with no pageantry and little protest. Basically, the debt ceiling is a stupid wonky antiquated law we should scrap altogether.
But instead of a reasonable discussion about the health of our finance laws, the minority party (loosely) controlling one-half of one of the three branches of government is demanding two-thirds of the Congress get together to propose an amendment for then three-fourths of state legislatures to ratify BEFORE allowing the country to pay its creditors in the next few days. This can be summed up in one word: cynical.
It’s like insisting we touch down on Neptune before we land on the Moon again: It means you want to appear to be advocating “big ideas,” when, in fact, you don’t really want to go to either destination and despise travel in general. And since you know Neptune will never happen, you can be for nothing while appearing to be enthusiastically for something – albeit something impossible.
It’s cynical. It shows contempt for governing and a presumption that American’s are too ignorant to catch on.
If Republicans were serious about their newest go-nowhere proposal, they’d quietly try to acquire support from Democrats while trying to gather a consensus from their constituents. Just ask anyone alive during the Equal Rights Amendment debate in 1972. They will tell you how amending the Constitution is a lengthy, drawn-out, overwhelming campaign, and it was meant to be so. The GOP isn’t interested in this process.
Neophyte Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) favorite go-to non-solution is “constitutional amendments.” He’s a self-described libertarian. His admitted scorn for government showed when he proposed repealing the 14th Amendment to eradicate alleged “anchor babies.” This was an idea to strip citizenship from children born in the U.S., thus creating more illegal immigrants. Paul now says he’ll filibuster raising the debt ceiling until a balanced-budget amendment is passed. He told ABC News in June, “We will vote to raise the debt ceiling if we get a balanced-budget amendment.”
With the deadline of Aug. 2 rushing down, Republicans flooded the Sunday morning talk shows this week with a show of solidarity in – you guessed it – cynicism:
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) on CBS’s Face the Nation: “Why in the world isn’t there the votes for a balanced-budget amendment in the U.S. Senate? That’s the question Americans ought to be asking.”
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) on NBC’s Meet the Press: “The only plan on the table that’ll keep us from default and will keep us from falling to a negative rating is the Cut, Cap and Balance Plan.” Then he followed with the dubious statistic, “Now folks can say that it’s outrageous to balance our budget, but over 70 percent of Americans think we need to.”
Over on ABC’s This Week, Raul Labrador (R-ID) magically added to the popularity of the GOP’s pet proposal: “Eighty percent of the American people want us to have a balanced-budget amendment. I’m not sure why the President is standing in the way of that.”
Why is the President standing in the way of this sham demand? “I think it’s important for everybody to understand that all of us believe that we need to get to a point where eventually we can balance the budget,” President Obama said at one of the many press conferences on the debt ceiling. “We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do that; what we need to do is to do our jobs.”
Speaking of jobs, that’s what the GOP ran on: jobs. But once sworn in, they’re nothing more than ineffective congressional seat-fillers on the public’s dime.
We as citizens need to call their bluff. They don’t want to amend the Constitution.
Their real goal is the pyrrhic victory of making the President fail because they think the GOP will rise from the country’s ashes.
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far