WASHINGTON – House Speaker John Boehner is ignoring legislation introduced to forgo an increase in the debt limit as well as the campaign promises of 87 House Republican freshmen to stop further borrowing by the federal government, says the organizer of a campaign to freeze the debt limit at $14.3 trillion.
“There’s a real division brewing between the House Republican leadership and most of the rest of the 242 members,” said Joseph Farah, the force behind the “No More Red Ink” campaign that has catapulted the issue to the front burner in the Capitol. “We are getting their attention with the first 125,000 red ink letters delivered to the House Republicans and a second batch of 125,000 set to go out this week.”
The “No More Red Ink” campaign demands House Republicans stop all deficit spending this year by freezing the debt limit at $14.3 trillion and forcing major cuts in so-called “entitlements” and all non-essential spending.
The growing controversy within the House Republican majority about the debt limit is being called Boehner’s defining moment as speaker.
Boehner has repeatedly signaled to Barack Obama’s administration that he intends to play ball and raise the limit – even explaining in one media appearance that refusal to do so would cause the U.S. to default on its obligations.
But the House Republican Study Committee, whose membership represents two-thirds of the Republican majority, is pushing a bill that would forestall a vote to raise the debt limit, authorizing the Treasury Department to prioritize debt payments when the ceiling is reached.
The legislation “assures lenders that their investments in the United States government are entirely safe,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., the lead House sponsor. “Congress will still have to deal with the issue of the debt limit. It simply takes a default off the table.”
At least a half-dozen House members, including Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas, are outspokenly opposed to raising the debt limit. But the plan is catching on with many more as the avalanche of red paper messages pours into offices of the Republican majority
The campaign bringing attention to the debt limit vote – and particularly the House Republicans’ critical role in that vote – is an effort called “No More Red Ink.” Farah has repeatedly pointed out that Republicans were swept into power in November with the expectation they would stand up to more deficit spending.
The campaign got an unexpected boost from Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner last week who said an unexpected increase in tax revenues has postponed the necessity of such a vote for weeks because the debt limit is not expected to be reached until May 16, rather than earlier projections of the end of March.
“This is a gift for all those who understand what’s at stake in this vote,” said Farah. “We now may have a little more time to make our case with House Republicans, who can unilaterally deny Obama any more wild spending plans and actually force Washington into making dramatic cuts in so-called ‘entitlements’ and other wealth- redistribution schemes.”
“Unfortunately, if the House Republicans do not hear from the American people in strength, they will vote for business-as-usual deficit spending for the next two years and surrender the power they have to force fiscal responsibility on Barack Obama and the Democrats in the Senate,” says Farah. “House Speaker John Boehner says he wants to use the debt limit to wrangle concessions out of the Democrats, but when he signals, as he did last weekend, that Congress must raise the debt limit to keep the government solvent, he has already waved the white flag of surrender on the most important vote to be cast in Congress over the next two years.”
With the Republicans holding 242 seats in the House, only 218 votes are needed to freeze the debt limit right where it is.
However, the House Republican leadership says it will trade a hike in the debt limit for a promise by Obama and the Democrats to cut the budget.
“I don’t understand this?” says Farah. “If you are holding a winning hand, why fold? Why trade away the power you have to force the first real cuts in the budget and the end of deficit spending for yet another promise that will not be kept?”
For his part, Farah has made it easy for the public to make their voices heard in Washington in a powerful way.
The “No More Red Ink” campaign has two facets:
- Sign a petition directed exclusively to all 242 House Republicans calling on them not to bargain away their “nuclear option” that can stop any further deficit spending for the next two years.
- Flood their offices with “red ink” letters that remind them they are holding all the cards in getting government spending under control and that all they have to do is vote “no” on raising the debt limit.
“This is a plan to separate the real economic conservatives from the pretenders,” said Farah. “If you want to reduce the debt that is destroying this country’s economy we have a chance right now to slam on the brakes. Once the debt limit is raised, it’s back to business as usual.”
Republicans in the House hold all the cards, Farah points out, because of their majority. They don’t need a single Democratic vote to side with them to shut down borrowing.
“At that point, Barack Obama can’t implement Obamacare,” he said. “From that moment onward, there will be no more spending initiatives by Obama for the next two years. There will be no more bailouts, no more ‘stimulus’ spending. It’s all over. In fact, the most significant budget cuts in modern American history will have to be made – and the Republican House will still have to approve them.”
Farah says he can’t understand why so few conservatives and Republicans are pushing the idea.
“I have to believe that most Americans are simply unaware of what is about to transpire,” he said. “Everyone is talking about the debt crisis – even Obama. But no one is talking about the opportunity we have to start reversing it right now. It’s always tomorrow, next year, next decade. That is a recipe for an even bigger disaster. Borrowing more is never a solution to a debt problem.”
The “No More Red Ink” campaign allows Americans to send a “red ink” letter to every member of the House majority urging them to vote “no” on raising the debt limit. The letters are individually addressed to each member, with guaranteed delivery by Fed Ex for a cost of just $29.99. It would cost an individual more than $100 in postage alone to send the 242 letters with no guaranty of delivery and certainly nowhere near the impact.
A similar campaign organized by WND last year delivered more than 9 million “pink slips” to members of the House and Senate. Farah is hoping a similar response by Americans in the next few weeks will persuade House Republicans to oppose raising the debt limit.
Last week, the Heritage Foundation also responded to the dire warnings from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that if he doesn’t get his way with the debt ceiling, “our soldiers and veterans wouldn’t be paid, Social Security checks wouldn’t go out.”
The analysis by J.D. Foster, the Norman B. Ture senior fellow in the economics of fiscal policy at the Heritage Foundation, calls that warning alarmism.
“If the federal government runs up against the debt limit, then the Treasury has tools to manage cash flow for a time before severe measures will be necessary to align the federal spending set in law with the receipts available to the Treasury,” Foster wrote in his report.
“Treasury almost certainly will not default on its publicly issued debt. Nor will Congress imperil the standing of U.S. government debt in the credit markets, risking America’s ‘full faith and credit,’ as the president’s chief economic adviser has said,” he said.
For his part, Farah is encouraged.
“When we started this campaign two weeks ago, almost no one was talking about freezing the debt limit,” he said. “Few Americans understood what a powerful weapon the House Republicans had in their hands. Now the pressure is mounting on those who were elected in November promising an end to business as usual in Washington. That’s exactly what the debt-limit vote is all about – whether Washington is going to continue borrowing and overspending or whether new leadership will exert fiscal responsibility beginning this year.”