Speaker John Boehner is calling on Congress to deal with the issues of budget reductions and the Bush tax cuts before the election. And he is threatening to block an increase in the federal debt ceiling unless significant new cuts occur.
The case for tackling these issues now is straightforward. If they are put off until the lame duck session, there will be little time to avoid the train wreck scheduled for January, when the first round of harsh, across-the-board spending cuts are to kick in, absent agreed upon cuts.
As Joe Lieberman put it, “this whole idea of waiting until the lame-duck session and then trying to do all of this, that we have to do in a limited number of weeks — that’s very risky.” Olympia Snowe added: “We have a lot of issues pending in the lame-duck session, and I think we ought to be settling them now as opposed to later. . .so we know what direction the country is going in — and not slapdash in the lame-duck session in all these big questions.”
But Harry Reid is having none of it. He said: “With the way that the Republicans are forcing us to legislate, I honestly don’t see our being able to do much of anything prior to the election.”
As a general matter, voters are likely to find more merit in the views of Boehner, Lieberman, and Snowe than in Reid’s complacent unwillingness to tackle the biggest issue of the day. If it comes to forcing another showdown over the debt ceiling, however, the politics become anyone’s guess.