WASHINGTON – All five Republican members of Arizona’s House delegation have signed on to the Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011, a plan to deal with the nation’s debt limit that is expected to come up for a vote Tuesday.
The three Democrats in the state’s House delegation could not be reached Monday or declined to comment on how they would vote on the bill, which would allow a temporary increase in the debt limit in exchange for a cap on spending, steep budgets and passage of a constitutional balanced budget amendment. But some have spoken out stridently against similar GOP proposals in the past.
Regardless of how they vote, the bill is seen as a largely symbolic measure: While it will likely pass the House Tuesday, it is not expected to pass the Senate.
“It (the Cut, Cap and Balance Act) is a statement of position. It stakes out a stance in a negotiation,” said Bill Galston, a senior fellow of governance at the Brookings Institute.
Even if it survived the Democrat-controlled Senate, which is unlikely, Galston said President Barack Obama has said he would veto any such bill.
Symbolic or not, other experts say the bill is the best legislative option on the table to address government overspending and the national deficit. The balanced budget amendment called for in the act is key to the bill, said Jennifer Anderson, a deputy political director at Heritage Foundation.
“I think CCB is significant and can have long-term legislative impact if passed in its complete form,” Anderson said.
She said that tax increases being called for by the president and many Democrats are not an option.
“Any tax increases are unacceptable — if there is deal it has to be pro-growth,” Anderson said.
But some, like Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, have said tax increases are part of what is needed to help solve the crisis.
Grijalva is a member of the Progressive Caucus, which earlier this month urged the president to reject cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other social programs and instead look to other cuts and to eliminating “tax breaks benefiting the very richest Americans.” The caucus has proposed a “People’s Budget” alternative to the president.
The arguments are a response to Obama’s request for an increase in the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, which will be exceeded in two weeks. The country hit its borrowing limit in May and since then, Galston said, the Treasury secretary has had to resort to taking money from other “cookie jars” to pay the nation’s bills.
Without an increase in the debt limit, Galston said, the Treasury “won’t have any more cookie jars to raid” on Aug. 3. On that day, the United States will have $12 billion in revenues and $32 billion of bills — $23 billion of which are Social Security payments alone.
“This is a prescription for chaos — financial chaos and legal chaos,” Galston said.
But Republican lawmakers think this bill is more than a way to flex their ideals. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, said in a statement that he is counting on the act to pass to solve the debt crisis. It is not just political show, his statement said.
“That means less government, lower taxes, and more jobs, especially for the next generation, whose futures have been mortgaged by the national debt to the tune of $46,000 each,” Gosar said. “The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act is the plan this country needs.”
Gosar is a sponsor of the measure along with Arizona Republican Reps. Trent Franks of Peoria, Jeff Flake of Mesa, David Schweikert of Scottsdale and Ben Quayle of Phoenix, and 83 other House members.