Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 2009 / 8 Mar-Cheshvan 5770
Reid and the rebels
By David Broder
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Parker Jacoby When I wrote a few days ago about the growing nervousness of moderate Senate Democrats over the approaching vote to raise the federal debt limit, I had no idea how quickly evidence of that shift in the political winds would appear.
I quoted Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who this month initiated a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying that he and nine co-signers would have a hard time voting to boost the debt limit, as the White House needs them to do to protect the nation's fiscal credibility, unless a tangible step were taken at the same time to pledge serious action to reduce future deficits.
Specifically, the 10 asked Reid to support a long-bottled-up proposal for a bipartisan commission whose report would trigger an up-or-down vote in both the House and Senate on a set of specific ways to cut those deficits. Both Reid and President Obama told Bayh, in separate meetings, to cool his jets and wait until next year.
But on Wednesday, a floor vote made clear that this issue may not wait. Reid tried to get the Senate to ratify a scheme for dodging a $247 billion hole in financing the health-care bill and was thwarted when Bayh and his allies, plus three more Democrats, and all 40 Republicans, voted it down, 53 to 47.
The "doc fix" rejected last week is something Congress has been willing to do each year to avoid scheduled reductions in payments to doctors for treating their Medicare patients. But if that $247 billion were added to the estimated 10-year cost of the pending health-care legislation, it would bust the $900 billion ceiling Obama has set.
Reid's solution: Pass the "doc fix" as separate legislation and get it out of the way before the health bills hit the floor.
This is exactly the kind of sleight of hand that Congress routinely performs to conceal spending that has contributed to the record $1.4 trillion deficit for this past year. It's not limited to Democrats. When Republicans were in control for eight years, they refused to raise taxes to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or the costs of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. And they did not have the excuse of facing the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.
But this year the public has finally grown alarmed about the debt being passed on to our children and grandchildren. What Bayh and the others who balked at Reid's effort to finesse the spending issue understand is that time has run out on schemes that perpetuate the dangerous fiscal policies of the past.
Economic recovery is job one. But budgetary responsibility is job two, and we can't afford to delay starting on it any longer.
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