Chucks and Balances
January 31, 2013 - Thursday
The economy may not be growing, but our debt surely is! At a press conference on Monday, the President thundered at Congress that even hinting at default was "irresponsible" and "absurd." But you know what's really irresponsible and absurd? Demanding that America pay its bills--while his administration racks up more expensive ones! "Think about it in terms of a credit card," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). "If you have a son or daughter who exceeds the limits, what do you do? The first thing you do is probably rip up the card. The second thing you do is say, 'We need to change our spending habits.' This is what the President won't do."
Republicans are hoping to change that by sticking to a short-term plan they hatched at a House retreat two weeks ago. Under this strategy, the GOP would go along with the President and raise the borrowing limit--but only temporarily. By mid-May, when the new credit line runs out, Democrats will come knocking for more--and when they do, they'll have to be ready to negotiate. At that point, two other major budget issues collide: the across-the-board sequester cuts and the expiration of the government's temporary funding measure, or continuing resolution. Congress will need all hands on deck--including Republicans'--to navigate a compromise on all three deadlines. That's when the GOP can pounce, demanding across-the-board spending cuts as a condition of any deal.
Of course, this approach didn't stop Republicans from trying to exact some responsibility out of the Senate early. Before today's vote to raise America's credit limit, Sen. Portman introduced an amendment that would force Congress to cut one dollar for every one that it raises the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, Democrats aren't eager to address the underlying problem--spending--any sooner than they have to, and the proposal failed. It's a shame, said Sen. Portman, because the measure would have shaved $3 trillion from spending in 10 years. For now, the Senate has agreed (64-34) to bump up the borrowing limit $450 billion more, raising the possibility of a sky-high $17 trillion total debt by May.
The Senate's busy day kicked off with a testy Armed Services hearing over the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as the new Secretary of Defense. So far, Hagel's most outspoken critics have been fellow Republicans. Most of them, like Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.), feel that his record "appease[d] our adversaries while shunning our friends," a reference to Hagel's questionable positions on the Middle East and his anti-Israel agenda.
Although the GOP seems reluctant to endorse Hagel, Iran is not. In one of the hearing's most shocking moments, Sen. Inhofe asked why the Iranians were so eager to support Hagel. He couldn't answer. As far as social issues go, the President's nominee seems to have also "evolved," providing written assurances to the committee that he would abandon his objections to homosexual partner benefits. "Hagel stressed that he fully supports the repeal of [Don't Ask, Don't Tell]... and added that he would work to extend personnel benefits to the families of gay members of the military." He also believes taxpayers should be forced to pay for military abortions--promising Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that he would protect "women service members' reproductive rights." To learn more on the possible chief of America's defense, click over to FRC's special Hagel backgrounder.
Above Board: Experts Scoff at Joining Health Panel
Apparently, serving on a government "death panel" isn't exactly topping people's bucket lists. This week, the Washington Post explained that ObamaCare's 15-member "rationing panel" has hit a bit of a snag: no one wants to join it. The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) was one of the most controversial parts of the President's legislation--mainly because it puts 15 unelected strangers in charge of health decisions for most Americans. In the name of "cost-certainty," IPAB would have the authority to limit which specialists you see, what treatments are available, and in some cases, whether you're eligible for care at all.
Still, the pressure of cutting costs without affecting care isn't exactly a health industry dream job. "You're joining an organization that has uncertain authority with the certainty of being deeply political and widely criticized," said Bob Kocher, a former Obama advisor. "It doesn't make sense for current thought leaders in American health care to want to do this." Even Jonathan Gruber, who helped pass ObamaCare, wants no part of it. "No way," he told reporters.
Unfortunately for Americans, the next best thing to IPAB is just as frightening. If the panel remains unfilled--and Congress doesn't find an alternative--the power would transfer over to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who would have the authority to implement her own cost-cutting measures without any accountability whatsoever. How many of you would want Kathleen Sebelius sitting at the controls when you have a health condition? Not me--and certainly not House Republicans. Earlier this month, as part of a rules package, the House voted not to comply with any Medicare cuts that IPAB recommends (which would lead to the rationing conservatives warned about). Although the GOP is desperately trying to block the Board from injecting itself in doctor-patient care, it isn't likely to change much. Still, good on conservatives for chipping away at the credibility of this and other ObamaCare provisions! Eventually, the rest of the country may catch on and elect leaders who would repeal the law altogether.
Boy Scouts Fall on Tough Times
If it's approval the Boy Scouts are seeking, their new policy on homosexuality is resulting in anything but. The Left is already sharpening its knives for a battle, which, all signs suggest, is just beginning. The New York Times didn't waste any time proving FRC's point that homosexual activists will not be satisfied until religion and morality are bygones of the Scouting era. In a column bashing the BSA's "local option" on homosexuality, the editors seethed that the compromise "falls far short of the clear and strong renunciation of antigay bigotry that is called for... [It is] an unprincipled position that would continue to send a message that discrimination is perfectly acceptable even if it is no longer mandatory under national Boy Scouts rules."
Obviously, the extreme Left won't rest until the entire policy is completely abolished. "[T]he board should establish a firm anti-discrimination policy and make clear its determination to see that the principle is followed at the local level." Once that happens, there is no limit to the concessions the Left will demand--legally or otherwise--in every facet of Scouting life. Is the BSA prepared to integrate homosexuality into its curriculum, leadership training, living arrangements, and speaker line-ups? And what will the Scouts' defense be when transgender dads want to serve in mentorship roles (an issue currently plaguing the Girl Scouts)?
Accommodation is a slippery slope. Just ask the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who learned the hard way that there is no negotiating with the radical Left. The Boy Scouts are hoping this controversy will go away--but the only way it will is if they find the courage to stand their ground. Encourage BSA Board members to heed the warning signs, and place a higher priority on the well-being of the children than corporate donations. Click here for a list of decision-makers that you can call and respectfully voice your concerns. The Boy Scouts have spent 103 years building character--now it's time to help them defend it!
** If the news is making you long for the days of Ronald Reagan, FRC has just the thing! Our own Bob Morrison served in the Reagan administration and just finished a short, readable book about how America's 40th President built winning coalitions--not by running away, but by standing his ground! Click here for a free audio book or to download your copy of Reagan's Victory!
*** Don't miss a moment of "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins." Catch anything you missed from today's show with Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Pastor John Hagee on TonyPerkins.com tomorrow morning. Also, tune in on Friday as we talk more about Chuck Hagel's nomination with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).
**** A Maryland high school is attracting plenty of attention for its unusual prayer policy for Muslim students. Hear Peter Sprigg's response to the accommodation in his Fox News interview below.