Busy traveling during the ill-conceived debt-ceiling spectacle that consumed Congress during the summer of 2011? Craving an early start to an election year budget fight? Great news! On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner vowed to block another (supposedly routine) increase to the federal debt ceiling this year unless the increase is offset by larger spending cuts. But Boehner’s remarks before a fiscal summit meeting in Washington revealed the GOP’s other motive: To extend the Bush-era tax cuts before they expire at the end of this year as President Obama and Republican leaders had agreed upon in 2010.
Boeher said at the summit:
Our bill to stop the New Year’s Day tax increase will also establish an expedited process by which Congress would enact real tax reform in 2013 … The Ways and Means Committee will work out the details, but the bottom line is, if we do this right, we will never again have to deal with the uncertainty of expiring tax rates. We’ll have replaced the broken status quo with a tax code that maintains progressivity, taxes income once, and creates a fairer, simpler code.
Of course, Obama and Democratic leaders do want to extend the tax cuts — for the middle class, not the top earners. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said at the summit, “Our objective should be to replace that very large set of expiring tax provisions and broad-based, automatic, pretty crude spending cuts with a more responsible, balanced glide path to fiscal sustainability.” He continued, “This time without the drama and the pain and damage that caused the country last July.”
But what Geithner sees as Congress’s obligation to pass a budget without drama, Boehner views an opportunity to force action. “We shouldn’t dread the debt limit,” Boeher said. “We should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction.” The showdown is coming and, according to Boehner, we should welcome it.