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Response to Senator Cruz on the debt limit
Keith Hennessey, Your guide to American economic policy ^ | 02/15/2014 | Keith Hennessey

Posted on 02/16/2014 8:05:41 PM PST by SeekAndFind

On the Mark Levin show Thursday Senator Ted Cruz said:

The single thing that Republican politicians hate and fear the most, and that is when they’re forced to tell the truth. It makes their heads explode. And actually look, this debt ceiling example is a perfect example. The Republican members of the Senate, they all wanted the perfect show vote. So the whole fight was, was every Senator in the Senate going to consent to allow a clean debt ceiling, to allow Barack Obama to get a blank check to raise our debt, while doing nothing about spending, with just 51 votes? Now in order for that to happen, all 100 Senators have to consent to it. Now there were an awful lot of Republican Senators who thought that was perfect, cause then they could all vote no, and go home and tell their constituents, “See, I voted no, I did the right thing.” But it only happens if they allow it to happen. And all I did was very simple, I said, listen, when I told Texans when I ran for office, that I’m going to fight with every ounce of strength I have to try to help pull this country back from the fiscal and economic cliff, I wasn’t lying to them, I meant it. So if your ask of me is will I consent to let Harry Reid to do this on 51 votes, the answer is no. I will vote no at every stage against it, because it’s irresponsible, because it’s wrong, because we’re bankrupting our children. And Republicans’ heads exploded, because it meant … Look, make no mistake about it. This was their desired outcome. An awful lot of Republicans wanted exactly what Barack Obama wanted, exactly what Nancy Pelosi wanted, exactly what Harry Reid wanted, which is to raise the debt ceiling, but they wanted to be able to tell what they view as their foolish, gullible constituents back home they didn’t do it, and they’re made because by refusing to consent to that they had to come out in the open and admit what they’re doing and nothing upsets them more.

In one respect I agree with Senator Cruz. Senate Republican Leaders did “want” the clean debt limit bill to pass the Senate and they wanted the political cover of voting no. Senator Cruz exposed this through his objection, forcing not just Senators McConnell and Cornyn, but a bunch of others as well, to vote aye on cloture so that they could get to a final passage vote where the bill passed but all Republicans voted no.

But they were right to vote aye on cloture. Senator Cruz skips over why the others wanted this outcome: the only other legislative alternative was not increasing the debt limit. At that point no one, including Senator Cruz, had an alternative strategy to pass a debt limit bill that cut spending, or repealed or modified ObamaCare, or made any other good policy change.

If you want to defeat a bad bill you need both a better policy and a viable legislative strategy to achieve it. In some cases that legislative strategy could be blocking enactment of any bill, but that would not have worked here. In this case I believe strongly that not raising the debt limit is far worse than enacting a clean debt limit increase.

This then provokes a series of questions for Senator Cruz.

Q1: ”Do you agree that not raising the debt limit is a worse policy outcome than enacting a clean debt limit increase?”

If the answer is yes, then:

Q2: ”What was your alternative legislative strategy for enacting a debt limit increase that also contained some other reform?”

If the answer is “I didn’t have one,” then:

Q3: “Weren’t the Senate Republicans who supported cloture therefore doing the right thing, even at some political cost to themselves?”

It’s easy for any one person to design a bill that is (debt limit increase + X), where X is a good fiscal or other policy reform. It’s much harder to get a lot of votes for any particular such bill. House Republican leaders were unable to pass such a bill in the House with any X, good or not-so-good.

And once the House had passed the only debt limit increase it could pass, Senate Republicans were stuck in a take-it-or-leave-it position. Informally we say the House jammed Senate Republicans: Senate Rs were forced to choose between two outcomes, both of which they hated. Had House Republicans been able to pass a debt limit increase with an additional reform attached, then Senate Republicans would have had available another, less worse, option.

Last year I proposed a legislative strategy (including in the Wall Street Journal) to get a small policy concession along with a debt limit increase. The House did a version of this strategy and, as a result, successfully pressured a Democratic Senate into passing a budget resolution. I pushed a variant of this strategy again in September, but this time House Republicans couldn’t execute because they didn’t have the votes.

As was the case in last fall’s CR/shutdown battle, this week Senator Cruz did not have a legislative strategy with an endgame. He neither presented an alternative strategy to his colleagues nor pursued one as a lone wolf on the Senate floor. In both cases he simply made a single aggressive tactical legislative move that didn’t point toward an alternative outcome, then accused his colleagues of being cowardly, unprincipled, and deceptive for not following his lead into a blind canyon.

Some will say, “At least Senator Cruz was willing to fight!” Unfortunately, this argument always stops there, and never explains how a willingness to fight without a strategy translates into a policy win. Legislative conflict is not a schoolyard tussle in which the bigger or tougher guy usually wins. It’s not a Hollywood movie in which the hero triumphs simply because he is virtuous. Legislative conflict is more like chess in that the battle is waged according to strict rules. Those who favor bigger government know how to play chess and some of them are quite good at it. Many of those who favor smaller government now seek praise for tipping over the board or eating the pieces. While momentary rebellion is flashy and can feel good for a moment, it’s not a strategy to win, not how you change policy. And the goal is to change policy for the better, not just to build a bigger mailing list, right?

It’s frustrating because I agree with many of Senator Cruz’ substantive policy goals. I want a smaller government and a larger private sector, less government spending, and less debt. I want to replace ObamaCare with consumer-driven health policies. I am frustrated by the President’s economic policies, by those who twist policy to suit their self interests, and by politicians in both parties who facilitate that behavior.

But having the right policy goal isn’t enough to succeed, to change policy. You also need a legislative strategy with an endgame and some chance of success. As best I can tell Senator Cruz didn’t have one last fall and he didn’t have one earlier this week. His tactical legislative moves, then and now, need to be considered in that context. The same is true for his public comments surrounding those legislative moves. His objection this week served only to expose that Republicans were boxed in, forced to choose between facilitating passage of a bill they didn’t like and an even worse policy outcome. And they were boxed in because they could not build sufficient support for a unified legislative strategy that had a chance of success.

I hope that in the future Senator Cruz can use his intellect, political savvy, and external base of support to produce effective strategies that produce the good policy results we both support, instead of using his prodigious skills and resources only to assign blame for the bad outcomes.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; Politics
KEYWORDS: debtlimit; tedcruz; texas

1 posted on 02/16/2014 8:05:41 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Ted Cruz is 100% correct

2 posted on 02/16/2014 8:07:53 PM PST by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans!)
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To: SeekAndFind

Hennessey is a very smart man.

Perhaps he should present his solution not only to the debt problem, but to the problem of what to do about a president who is totally incompetent at anything other than giving away obama phones.

3 posted on 02/16/2014 8:13:43 PM PST by old curmudgeon
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To: SeekAndFind

4 posted on 02/16/2014 8:14:49 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Sarah Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: SeekAndFind

Why post this nonsense?

Has this writer even thought that a “policy” probably was not Cruz’s
motivation? He wanted to expose these RINO’s that’s for sure.
I’m guessing he is trying to help some challengers to these RINO’s.

5 posted on 02/16/2014 8:17:15 PM PST by tennmountainman (Just Say No To Obamacare)
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To: SeekAndFind

Sorry, Keith. Spin it any damn way you want to, but Cruz’s stand was founded on principle and I stand with him.

There is no way to be ‘a little bit pregnant’, no more than one can be fiscally conservative and still vote for unlimited growth of fedgov debt without extracting concessions from the opposition on spending reductions and reforms.

Spinning it; rationalizing the outcome; none of that matters more than the fact that the deplorable outcome of these shenanigans is to heap trillions more debt on our children and grandchildren. It is criminal.

Time to clean house...

6 posted on 02/16/2014 8:19:26 PM PST by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion. 01-20-2016; I pray we make it that long.)
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To: GeronL

Unfortunately for Cruz the country is not ready for him. He reminds me of the tragic heroes in Chinese history. There are untold stories during various Imperial Dynasties where long term thinking minister would advise the emperor not to embark on certain actions. Instead of being thanked the minister ends up in prison for going against the general consensus of all the ministers in the imperial court and insulting the emperor. The hero ends up dying in prison but decades after his death everything he predicted came true. Only then the minister is no longer a villain, but a hero in history.
Cruz may be such a person. The shutdown is not popular. Just look at the polls. GOP gets blame. Even after the GOP wins in 2014 and 2016, a sizable portion of the GOP reps and Senators will win by slim margins. Are they ready to cut the budget and balance the budget. Gingrich tried that in 1995 and he had a handful of GOP reps who could not vote for many of his bills. The MSM was relentless and the low information voters added to the ignorance.
Shutdown is not popular, but to the average American they do not realize that Sen Cruz raises a valid point on US national fiscal health and its implication if no action is taken to rein in spending. The point of my post is has the nation reached a tipping point on our debt. Has the nation run out of time? IMHO I think it has, and I for one have been prepping since 2009. I think all freepers and conservatives need to network and prep. When the SHTF, US banks will implode, US gov will initiate bail in (customer accounts will be frozen, daily withdraws are limited, and anything larger the FDIC amount will be seized to cover bank debts). If you have stockpile food, essentials, and own hard assets, plus guns and bullets for defense, you may escape the violence of panic buying of food and water at supermarkets, have money when banks close, and protect your wealth in terms of reset currency if you own some prec metals. Many nations recently had sovereign debt collapse, and none end up like Mad Max, some form of gov still existed and martial law were implemented. The hardest part was the first six months dealing with shortages caused by banking disruption.

7 posted on 02/16/2014 8:22:16 PM PST by Fee ( Big Gov and Big Business are Enemies of America)
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To: Fee

He is about the only one who would get my vote in 2016

8 posted on 02/16/2014 8:24:29 PM PST by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans!)
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To: SeekAndFind
I call single handedly putting the business as usual crowd on their collective asses a win.

If the entire GOP had the same political will and the same fighting spirit as Cruz, were willing to fully utilize all the tools at their disposal, if they realized the opposition are enemy bastards that deserve no consideration whatsoever, that the commie bastards need to be defeated by any means, they could actually accomplish turning our country around.

As it stands the GOP are complacent, ineffective country clubbers complicit in the ruin of this once great nation.

They need to go. The more damage Cruz can do to the business as usual crowd by exposing their aiding and abetting the commies, the better.

Cruz leads by example.

Principle and courage is indeed a plan.

9 posted on 02/16/2014 8:41:01 PM PST by Manic_Episode (GOP = The Whig Party)
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To: SeekAndFind

“If the answer is yes, then:

Q2: ”What was your alternative legislative strategy for enacting a debt limit increase that also contained some other reform?””

Doesn’t matter because dingy won’t allow any alternatives to his madness to be heard.

10 posted on 02/16/2014 8:51:36 PM PST by rockrr (Everything is different now...)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Great image!

11 posted on 02/16/2014 8:53:44 PM PST by uncitizen (Impeach the Communist Already!)
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To: rockrr

Exactly. Step One was to say no. Step Two would have been to force the House to pass some budget cutting. It’s not Cruz’s job to play every instrument in the band.

12 posted on 02/16/2014 9:04:33 PM PST by firebrand
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To: SeekAndFind

Who is Keith Hennessey?

He’s a Beltway guy. You know, one of those assistants to a deputy assistant to a deputy director of an assistant to a cabinet level deputy assistant.

And his spiel here is that Old Ted should have have opposed (CLEAN BILL) WITH (CLEAN BILL + X).

Wow, that is so friggin awesome isn’t it?


13 posted on 02/16/2014 9:31:08 PM PST by Hostage (ARTICLE V)
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To: SeekAndFind
The Chess endgame argument is misapplied in this article. Stopping the spending madness in a way is the endgame itself.

Consider the case of a parent of a teenager who wants the car to go to an "anything goes", drugs and drinking party. In such a situation, does the parent really need to come up with an alternative endgame strategy?

Of course not! Stopping the teenager from endangering his/her life and the lives of those around them is the endgame itself.

Getting back to the debt ceiling. The real truth is that consequences of ending the debt madness is really bad for those who use debt instruments to enslave us and our future generations to their debt payments. They are not going to give this up without a major fight.

One must remember, it is these very debt instruments that are used as bank reserves (instead of gold) that become part of the reserve required for banks to issue/create money. As it currently stands, in the fractional reserve banking system, if we did not have any debt -- there would be no money!

Ted Cruz and the Tea Partiers are so on to this it now has the pigs on the run and squealing -- just like the teenager who wants the car keys to go to an anything goes party. Like a good parent, a FIRM NO is the only answer needed -- not some "alternative strategy" to keep them from endangering themselves and many others.

14 posted on 02/16/2014 9:50:09 PM PST by FranklinsTower
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To: SeekAndFind
At that point no one, including Senator Cruz, had an alternative strategy to pass a debt limit bill that cut spending, or repealed or modified ObamaCare, or made any other good policy change.

So, in order to be against a very bad idea, one must have a replacement idea. I thought the replacement idea was to get spending cuts (real cuts) as concessions to allow continued funding.

I guess that i order to vote that child abuse is wrong, this guy doesn't believe that not allowing it is enough - he probably wants a 5,000 page plan on what to do about it each step of the way.

15 posted on 02/17/2014 3:56:55 AM PST by trebb (Where in the the hell has my country gone?)
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