Cut Cap & Balance And The New Frontiers of Kookery

by Jonathan Chait | July 19, 2011

A scant few months after the Paul Ryan budget redefined the boundaries of conservative fanaticism, the Republican Party's new "Cut, Cap, and Balance" Constitutional Amendment makes that document seem quaintly reasonable. Ezra Klein sums up the policy:

Ronald Reagan's entire presidency would've been unconstitutional under CC&B. Same for George W. Bush's. Paul Ryan's budget wouldn't pass muster. The only budget that might work for this policy -- if you could implement it -- would be the proposal produced by the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee. But that proposal was so extreme and unworkable that a majority of Republicans voted it down.

37 House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans have pledged not to support a debt ceiling increase unless the CC&B Constitutional Amendment passes. Mitt Romney has signed this insane pledge. Ramesh Ponnuru has some gentle questions:

Representative Mick Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina who is a leading supporter of the amendment, said in an interview that if “the president wants this debt-ceiling increase, he’s going to help us get the votes.” He argued that Obama should deliver 50 Democratic votes in the House and 20 to 30 in the Senate. “That’s a good compromise for both sides.”
Does the congressman think that 50 Republicans would vote for a constitutional amendment that contradicts everything they stand for if President Romney asked them to?
What a congressman who pledges to increase the debt limit only if a spending-limit amendment passes is really saying is that he opposes increasing the debt limit. Because there is no way that two-thirds of Congress is going to pass this amendment now, or ever.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the CC&B amendment is the casual way in which it attempts to enshrine specific spending levels and to freeze current taxes into the Constitution. I would like to see its advocates explain why it is necessary for the Constitution to require their agenda. What is keeping the public from electing officials who will enact this agenda? If people want to enact policies like this, why not just let them do it? And if they don't, why force these policies upon them?

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/92246/cut-cap-balance-and-the-new-frontiers-kookery