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Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 1999/3 Tishrei, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Time for Bush to take charge, please -- CONGRESS IS GETTING READY to muff up again. Maybe George W. Bush can use his influence to save it from itself.

As Congress has just returned from its summer recess, pundits are trying to predict whether the current bottleneck in its agenda will lead to another government shutdown.

The dismal fact pointing in that direction is that 11 of its 13 spending bills are incomplete with the Oct. 1 deadline ominously looming. Relentless pressure from Democrats and centrist Republicans for increased spending may lead to temporary appropriations to avert the shutdown.

The ultimate outcome could be an omnibus budget bill that exceeds spending caps by more than $30 billion.

Isn't it just amazing? Both parties claim credit for the historical accomplishment of balancing the budget. Yet, they are about to circumvent the spending caps -- the disciplinary device responsible for this crowning fiscal achievement (apart from growth).

What other word but "incorrigible" could sufficiently describe these recidivist spendthrifts? Amnesiacs, perhaps?

The rationalizations are already beginning to surface. "The caps are unrealistic" say the gutless spendaholics.

What is this irrepressible urge they have to spend our money?

To add insult to injury, Congress, according to the Wall Street Journal, is on track to spend billions of dollars in the Social Security trust fund surplus on non-Social Security programs next year. But this doesn't keep them from promising to keep this money off limits.

At least Senate Majority Leader Lott sent a letter to Clinton saying he would schedule a vote soon to establish a Social Security lockbox, where SS surpluses can only be used for Social Security.

But with Congress's beyond-budget commitments, the projected non-Social Security budget surplus is projected instead to be a deficit of nearly $20 billion.

That would mean that to balance the budget without using SS funds, Congress would have to make cuts in other programs. But how in the world are they going to make any cuts when they are devoting most of their energy devising novel ways to spend the money? For example, the White House is expected to ask Congress for another $3 billion this week in emergency funding for peace-keeping activities in Kosovo.

Clinton, having won every PR battle he ever engaged in with the Republican Congress, is probably hankering for another shutdown. He'll use opposition to "risky" tax cuts as his prop. Then he can better position his chosen successor Al Gore for class warfare assaults on the GOP and its nominee as the presidential and congressional campaigns unfold.

And Clinton will again use "the children," via the education issue, as his PR prop to outmaneuver Republicans with this veto of their $792 billion tax cut bill. In anticipating the GOP argument that education is a local responsibility, Clinton said that our dilapidated and crumbling schools are a national disgrace.

This is exactly the point where Governor Bush should take his cue. Clinton is about to serve him up two issues he purports to care about deeply, namely tax cuts and education. And with Congress, especially the liberal and centrist Republicans, about to fold on the spending caps, Dubya could work toward killing multiple birds with one volley of stones.

What a great scenario! There is a vacuum of leadership in both parties concerning the budget issue. The tax cut and education issues are pivotal to the mix.

Bush should seize this unique moment and assume defacto leadership of the GOP indeed of Congress itself, by using his campaign bully-pulpit to: urge Congress not to break the spending caps; stick to their guns following Clinton's veto of their tax cut bill; and make the case that education is not, as Clinton says, a federal matter.

He would thereby demonstrate his leadership mettle and prove himself to be a real conservative where it matters to the most people, fiscally. He can prove his social conservatism as he moves forward.

Bush, as the leader in waiting, can parlay his voluminous congressional endorsements to steer the GOP majority into principled conservative action.

That would place them in a better position to retain their majority both on and independent from his coattails, if he becomes the nominee.

So many are accusing Bush of being anointed he might as well accept responsibility and begin "governing" from his podium. That would convince the grass-roots that he's for real and the nation that he's ready to lead.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?