Thursday night, the House finished voting to end the partial government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
This vote comes just hours after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached an agreement that sailed through the Senate.
Throughout these budget fights, we have urged members of Congress in both parties to look beyond partisan hype and remember that spending reform should be top priority.
This agreement may bring resolution to the recent crisis, but it is still unclear whether our nation will seriously address our immediate and long-term budget problems or just maintain the status quo.
Consider the terms of the agreement:
- It includes an increase in the debt ceiling without corresponding cuts in spending.
- It “keeps sequestration,” but only at the 2013 level, not the lower, legally required 2014 limit.
- Finally, it sets up a budget conference to deal with spending issues for the next ten years, a group which may or may not choose to address key drivers of our national debt.
History shows that these conferences rarely, if ever, succeed in enacting real spending reform, and we hope this one will not serve as yet another vehicle for the bipartisan spending caucus to reverse sequester cuts.
Instead, we urge conferees to build on the (limited) gains of the sequester by proposing a serious plan to reduce spending in all areas and begin the crucial work of entitlement reform.
But stepping back for just a moment, if there is a lesson that we all should learn from the last month, it is the critical need for rules that can actually keep spending in check.
The reality is that the rules that currently exist to control spending are prone to failure. The debt ceiling, created in 1917, has been raised 74 times since 1962, under Republican and Democrat administrations. Originally intended to allow the Treasury to issue debt without approval from Congress, the debt ceiling has never been effective at stopping more borrowing and spending.
Today, in 2013, only one other country — Denmark — has a structure similar to that of the United States, and its 20-year-old debt limit has been raised just once. Most other countries have different mechanisms for managing their finances, many of which have proven far more successful at restraining growth in spending and debt.
Relying on the good intentions of elected officials operating within a broken system to cease spending beyond our means is a fool’s errand.
If the rules are rigged against reform, true reformers should rethink the rules, instead of finding themselves, yet again, backed against a rhetorical wall and constrained by manufactured crises.
That is what we will continue to do. Will you join us?