House Speaker John Boehner
WASHINGTON – The largest tea party group in America has come out forcefully in opposition to raising the debt limit, adding more pressure to House Republicans who can kill plans to permit continued borrowing by the federal government and thus mandate the most dramatic government cuts in spending in decades.
Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, co-founders of the Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement, “Republican credibility as fiscally responsible managers of public resources is on the line” with the issue of the debt limit.
“In a matter of weeks, Congress will vote on whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling,” they wrote. “The American people are united in saying ‘no,’ with recent polls indicating almost 70 percent of the American people opposed to this reckless action. Once again, congressional Republicans will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that they are serious about bringing fiscal responsibility to Washington. Tea Party Patriots will be watching.”
The tea party leaders said their group applied immense pressure to see that Republicans lived up to their pledge to cut an initial $100 billion from the budget. They called that “a good start” and a “first step.”
“Now it is time to do the right thing by not raising the debt limit,” they said. “The whole nation is watching.”
More and more House Republicans are recognizing the biggest vote they will cast this year is on the question of whether to raise the debt limit because the new majority in the lower house can, by inaction alone, force the most dramatic spending cuts in American history.
Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., confronted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in a budget committee hearing last Wednesday on an earlier statement Bernanke made that it would be “reckless” for Congress not to approve an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit.
“Is it not also reckless to have the level of uncontrolled spending that the American people have been witnessing over the last 20 years or so?” Ribble asked.
“Absolutely,” Bernanke replied, “and I don’t mean to imply you shouldn’t address that. I just think they should be done separately.”
What is emboldening Republicans – even to the point of bucking their own leadership?
The organizer of a campaign to persuade House Republicans to hold the line on any more borrowing says the grass-roots effort is working.
“I’m seeing more and more Republicans recognizing what we’ve been saying in the ‘No More Red Ink’ campaign,” says Joseph Farah of WND, who has spearheaded the mailing of 250,000 letters to 242 House Republicans in an effort to block the raising of the debt limit. “This campaign is working. But we need the public to pour it on now because time is running out.”
While the latest poll shows 70 percent of Americans opposed to raising the debt limit, House Speaker John Boehner has signaled his intent to push for it – surrendering, Farah says, the only weapon Republicans have that can force cuts beyond those that will be accepted by the Democrat-dominated Senate and Barack Obama.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, is another member to publicly oppose the move.
“Voting to expand the limit is a bad idea,” he told WND. “I must be convinced we have wrung every nickel of spending out of this. Even then you are correct, this is the one tool available to us, and unilateral disarmament leads to financial Armageddon.”
Burgess joins Reps. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., Ron Paul, R-Texas, Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and others who publicly oppose raising the debt limit. It takes only 218 votes in the House to block the move, and Republicans control 242 votes.
Two weeks ago, Farah was not so optimistic victory in the long-shot campaign to freeze the federal government’s debt limit, thus creating the biggest political earthquake to hit the nation’s Capitol since Ronald Reagan’s election as president.
Today, he’s jubilant about what he sees as a political “tidal shift” within the House Republican majority.
The “No More Red Ink” campaign is working, he says.
“The latest poll from Investors Business Daily shows 70 percent of Americans opposed to raising the debt limit,” says Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND. “Among Republicans, it’s 86 percent opposed. Among Democrats, it’s 55 percent.”
And that’s just the beginning, says Farah.
His campaign has managed to ship 250,000 messages to House Republicans who wield the power to accomplish this mission without any help from Democrats or the consent of the Senate or Barack Obama. That’s during a two-week period in which there was virtually no media coverage of the campaign or even a hint that House Republicans were taking the protest seriously.
That has all changed, he says.
“This campaign is now getting help from tea party activists across the country,” he said. “We’re getting lots of support from Republicans in the House who don’t approve of their leadership’s concession on this issue. This is about to explode on the nation as the most important vote Congress will hold this year or any year – one that can completely break the chain of business as usual in Washington.”
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. All it takes is a simple “no” vote when the debt limit bill comes to the House. Republicans control 242 votes. It takes 218 to stop it.
The growing controversy within the House Republican majority about the debt limit is being called Boehner’s defining moment as speaker. And with 70 percent public opposition to “his go-along-to-get-along notion,” Farah says Americans have a real chance of ending business as usual in Washington.
“I honestly feel like we are winning the biggest congressional battle of the decade – bigger even than health care, because freezing the debt limit will deprive Obama of the funds he needs to implement his socialist nightmare on the country,” says Farah.
Boehner repeatedly has 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 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.
“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.”
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.”
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 guarantee 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.
Two weeks ago, 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 three 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.”
Farah predicts this will soon become the biggest issue in the nation – something that everyone is talking about.
“This is the moment to join this campaign and shake up the Washington borrowing-and-spending machine like it has never been shaken up before,” he said. “Remind the Republicans in the House why they were elected to lead.”