Matt Miller got at a piece of this in his column today, and I’ve broached it in previous posts on the Balanced Budget Amendment and the McCaskill-Corker spending cap, but let me try to put it all in one place:
House Republicans voted to make the Ryan budget law. But the Ryan budget includes $6 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years, which means that to become law, the Ryan budget would require a substantial increase in the debt ceiling. But before the Republicans agree to increase the debt ceiling so that the budget they passed can become law, Republicans are demanding the passage of either a balanced budget amendment that would make the Ryan budget unconstitutional or a spending cap that the Ryan budget would, in certain years (and if you’re using more realistic numbers, in all years), exceed.
The point? Republicans have done a lot more thinking about how to run against spending, debt and deficits than thinking about how to handle them going forward. The specific plan they voted for blows through both their spending and debt caps, and that’s if you grant a series of assumptions it makes about health-care spending that even conservative wonks agree are “magical.” You simply can’t run the government under the sorts of targets Republicans are endorsing, and if you look at their budget, you’ll realize that some of them, at least, know that.
As the L.A. Times says, this is why “the fight over borrowing should be waged on the budget resolution (where Congress sets limits on spending overall and by category), appropriations bills (where Congress authorizes the executive branch to spend money) and on laws affecting taxes and entitlements (where Congress determines how much the government collects and how much it hands out automatically to qualified beneficiaries). It should not be waged over the debt ceiling.” Or, for that matter, over spending caps or balanced budget amendments that include no detail of how they’ll reach their incredibly ambitious, and functionally unattainable, targets.