Shall We Scream and Shout or Get Something Done?

One of Robert Frost's poems suggests, tongue-in-cheek I hope:

When in Danger

And in Doubt

Run in Circles;

Scream and Shout

Is that to be the Conservative Republican motto for the next couple of years or would we prefer that they actually accomplish something beyond being reelected? The national debt limit and ObamaCare seem to be among the first tests.

National Debt Limit

We are within a few hundred billion dollars of reaching the national debt limit and that won't take long even without any newly authorized expenditures. There is lots of opposition to increasing the limit. We have already spent far too much! Gotta stop those wastrels. Rein them in! These statements are not only true but obviously so. However, the money has for the most part already been spent or obligated and this problem must be dealt with piece by piece and not as part of a suicide pact over the national debt.

I agree that refusing to increase the debt ceiling would be peachy, if the consequences were not draconian. Want to default on existing debts, foreign and domestic? Great. Then the dollar will forfeit any remaining status as an international currency and even as a respectable domestic currency. Halt Social Security payments? OK. Want to support your aged parents as you pay lots more for Chinese junk and foreign oil since we haven't been able to follow the commandment "Drill, baby, drill?" Want to pay more for just about everything else? Then refuse to increase the debt limit. Punish the beastly Democrats? Sure. That would be nice. But let's not punish ourselves and help to produce a resurgent Liberal Leftist majority in the process.

An increase in the debt limit need not, must not, and simply cannot mean increased spending if our CongressCritters are paying attention. All appropriations bills arise in the House because they have to; that's what the Constitution requires and when on infrequent occasion the Senate has decided otherwise, it has been put in its place by the refusal of the House to give up its constitutional prerogative and pass the Senate-crafted appropriations. The Republicans are now in charge of the House and don’t have to fund anything unless they choose to. The Senate can’t do it and neither can President Obama.

Our Honorable Members in the House should be clever enough to understand that an increased debt limit does not compel them to appropriate more money or prevent them from appropriating less. It does not even mean that existing funding must be maintained. There are many places to deny funding almost immediately. Funding has only been provided through early March of this year; that's when the government will run out of money (regardless of any action on the national debt limit) because the late but unlamented lame ducks were unable to pass an omnibus appropriation bill providing funding beyond that. A further interim appropriation bill can, of course, be passed to keep the government running in as low a gear as desired for another few months until appropriations can be fixed for the remainder of fiscal 2011. That’s where the focus must be. Starve ObamaCare, the EPA, even the sainted United Nations and a bunch of other ravenous beasts to death. That will work and will be healthy rather than suicidal. It will also greatly irritate the leftists, not a bad thing to do.

The repeal of ObamaCare has acquired much the same aura as refusal to extend the debt limit. ObamaCare is bad and so are hurricanes and floods. We are not in a position to outlaw or otherwise to prevent the latter two; resources dedicated to those ends would be wasted. What we can do is build strong houses and dams. That is not as effective as successfully eliminating hurricanes and floods would be but it is possible and does some good.

The House voted on January 7 to approve rules leading to the repeal of ObamaCare, 236-181. On January 8 the House postponed all legislative action for a week to "take whatever actions may be necessary in light of today's tragedy." Obviously a national tragedy, the shooting serves as a compelling reason for reflection rather than the sort of crass political opportunism to which the mainstream media has repeatedly and with obdurate persistence hitched its star. It does not, however, legitimize forgetting the other important business of the country.

As I argued here, outright repeal of ObamaCare just won't work. Here's why: the Republicans/Conservatives do not yet have a strong veto proof Congress. By 2013 there might well be a veto proof Republican/Conservative supermajority or a better president whose veto it will not be necessary to override -- unless we spoil our chances. Getting to that point is something we can and should work very hard to accomplish. Until then, the death of ObamaCare and other obnoxious laws by starvation seems better than ineffectual threats of a cleaner demise. Despite the feel-good sensation produced by passing a repeal bill it is almost certain to amount to no more than sound and fury signifying nothing; perhaps worse.