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by Matt Mackowiak

 

The debt ceiling fight currently being waged in Washington will have a major impact on the 2012 elections, because it’s presenting a clear contrast between the Republican and Democratic parties — something that rarely happens.

Republicans have skillfully used this moment to push fundamental budget reform uphill. The forces of the status quo, who have gotten fat and happy from federal spending levels of 24 percent of gross domestic product, are violently resisting the overspending straitjacket that the Cut, Cap, Balance plan represents.

It would be very easy for Republicans to wash their hands of a president who is biologically incapable of leading. If a speech or a lecture were necessary, he would be the most qualified person in the world for the task. But alas, what is needed in the White House is a statesman, a negotiator, a legislator. What is needed is trustworthiness and commitment, not hope and change.

But conservatives and the more than 180 groups who make up the Cut, Cap, Balance Coalition (for whom, in full disclosure, I have consulted) have driven this political battle from the very beginning. Now, as it nears some kind of conclusion, it’s important to consider the ramifications it will have on policy and politics.

Several courageous leaders in Congress, like Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Congressmen Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Joe Walsh (R-IL), have consistently put the next generation ahead of the next election. Republicans aren’t stupid — they know that if they simply increased the debt limit and maybe made Democrats vote against a reasonable plan to cut and restrict spending, it would redound to their political benefit next November. As a result, they’d likely maintain a majority in the House, take back the Senate and perhaps win the White House. But these conservative leaders have said winning an election is not enough. They’re worried about the country’s future.

The last three elections (2006, 2008 and 2010) were wave elections — which is unusual. Four consecutive wave elections would be even more unusual.

But, it’s possible.

In order for Republicans to create the circumstances for a fourth consecutive wave election, they should:

1) Hold firm on Cut, Cap, Balance: On Friday, the Cut, Cap, Balance bill came four votes short in the Senate after easily passing in the House. A CNN poll released last week showed that 66 percent of the American people support it. It is currently the only plan that has passed either house. It could be slightly amended to increase the chances that it could pass in the Senate.

2) Force votes on the balanced-budget amendment (BBA) in both houses before Aug. 2: These votes should occur as late as possible, to encourage maximum public pressure. To become law, the BBA will have to get two-thirds support in both houses of Congress (290 votes in the House, 67 votes in Senate) and get ratified by three-fourths of the states. That’s hard but not impossible. In the 1990s, the BBA came just one vote short in the Senate from being sent to the states.

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