Monday, 25 July 2011

"Super-Congress" Proposed to Fast-Track Debt Limit Increases

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CongressA "super-Congress" is being proposed by Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. The left-wing Huffington Post summarizes the plan — which they claim is also supported by Republican House Speaker John Boehner — this way:

"Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the 'super committee' — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn't be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who'd have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law."

The Huffington Post also noted: "This 'Super Congress,' composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn't mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers."

Of course, the type of fast-tracking being discussed is constitutional — even if it is unwise. The U.S. Constitution provides that "Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its Proceedings," (Art. I, Sec. 5) and choose its own officers (Art. I, Sec. 2 and 3). Congress has long chosen to fast-track (allow no amendments) for most treaties and trade agreements that have been negotiated over many months, in order to avoid sending negotiators abroad again to renegotiate the agreements.

What's new about the discussion is that Congress is trying to streamline the process of approving more deficit spending.

They want it to become easier for Congress to borrow and spend more money on credit. A $14 trillion debt is not enough. It's not even close, because they expect to have to raise the debt limit again and again.

This speaks volumes about the intent of the congressional leadership of both parties. "If you give somebody the power to inflate the currency, he will. If you give somebody the power to spend in deficit, he will," John McManus, president of the conservative John Birch Society told The New American. McManus added: "This is outrageous. What is needed is fiscal responsibility, which is not present in Washington, D.C." McManus is also publisher of The New American magazine.

Constitutionalists say that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell worked together as hard at spending cuts as they are at trying to figure out ways to increase the national debt, they probably wouldn't have to bother with the latter.

The "super-Congress" proposal could be seen as a way to force unlimited debt level increases upon the American people without the appearance of giving ordinary members of Congress a say in those increases. Indeed, many see the plan as a direct attack on the Tea Party influence on Congress, which has demanded that any increase in debt be accompanied by serious spending cuts. Yet GOP leadership in both the House and the Senate have yet to win any serious spending cuts since the 2010 elections that brought in a giant freshman class in the House with a mandate for spending cuts. A "super-Congress" could "force" congressmen to rubber-stamp every White House-directed increase in the national debt or face ruin of the national credit and a resultant economic meltdown as the only alternative.

This proposal comes just days after House and Senate leaders of both parties compliantly fulfilled White House demands to meet at 11:00 a.m. July 23, even though the President has no constitutional authority to demand that congressional leaders meet. An angry Obama told the press July 22,

So here’s what we’re going to do. We have now run out of time. I told Speaker Boehner, I’ve told Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, I’ve told Harry Reid, and I’ve told Mitch McConnell I want them here at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. We have run out of time. And they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default. And they can come up with any plans that they want and bring them up here and we will work on them. The only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013.

The super-Congress proposal would put these same congressional leaders who obey unconstitutional White House orders in all-but-complete control of the debt limit, therefore making the White House the dominant force in debt-limit policies.

The prospect of a President ordering congressional leaders around raised the hackles of at least one member of Congress. Asked by Fox News' Neil Cavuto about Obama's demands, Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) — who is also a candidate for President — replied that Congressmen had an obligation to ignore the unconstitutional and dictatorial demands of President Obama:

Cavuto: "If there was a demand on the part of the president, as he essentially said, 'Get in here right now. I want to talk to all of you guys and settle this,' would you go?"

Paul: "No. I would be pretty annoyed. I was annoyed at him instructing Boehner and all the congressional leaders, 'You get up here at 11:00'.... You could make the case that, since Congress is in charge of the purse, maybe the President — if he was really a leader and wanted to bring people together — maybe he would say, 'Mr. Boehner, could I come over and visit with you? I'd like to talk this over with you.' I think that would be a gracious way of dealing with this problem, rather than shouting at each other and blaming each other and instructing the members of Congress."

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