Next spring, Republicans will be faced with a serious decision over whether to vote to raise the debt ceiling.
Failing to do so could signal foreign countries that the U.S. plans to default on our debt--an act that would surely have dire economic repercussions.
On the other hand, Tea Party activists -- and other conservatives -- might understandably view such a vote as evidence that Republicans still don’t “get it” -- and that the politicians didn't hear them in November.
So what’s the realistic solution to this conundrum?
In all likelihood, Republicans will have to reluctantly vote to extend the debt ceiling -- but they should not do so without extracting some serious concessions in return.
(Note: I’m not suggesting Republicans get in the business of trading for parochial “goodies” -- I’m instead suggesting they turn a lemon into lemonade for the American people).
Other Republicans are already signaling they agree with this notion.
As The Hill recently reported:
“Incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made clear Thursday he intends to use a vote next spring on raising the debt ceiling to exact spending concessions from the Obama administration and Democrats.”
And on a recent conference call, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) reportedly put it this way:
"… you could actually use a modest increase in the debt ceiling to leverage your ability to pass into law lots of long-term stuff that actually would help bring down the debt and the need to ever have to increase it again."
While Reps. Ryan and Kingston appear to be on the right track in arguing Republicans should not give away a debt ceiling vote for free – here’s my modest proposal:
Republicans should agree to raise the debt ceiling only if Democrats also agree to vote for a balanced budget amendment resolution. ?
After all, extracting spending concessions would likely have a short-term impact -- but passing a balanced budget amendment would fundamentally address our nation's addiction to spending indefinitely.
Frankly, there is nothing more important Republicans could do to actually fix the underlying problem with the deficit and the debt than to pass a balanced budget amendment and send it to the states for ratification.