As of 12:30 ET, August 2, 2011, the United States is able to remain solvent for at least a little longer. The debt ceiling has been raised. Many politicians and news anchors spoke of the impending crisis if the Congress failed to pass a debt ceiling bill, which would mean that the government could not borrow any more money. Would the U.S. credit rating drop? Would seniors and others on fixed incomes lose their Social Security payments? Would air traffic controllers still guide our country’s airlines?
Fortunately, those questions are behind us now and it’s smooth sailing from here on out. Or is it?
The debt ceiling agreement is contingent on the establishment of a 12-member “Super Congress” which will be charged with recommending further reduction of the debt, in a plan to be presented to the larger Congress by Thanksgiving. This budget is scheduled to come to a vote on December 23, 2011.
Aside from the fact that the three major political groups were all disappointed by this bill, and the continued danger to our economy and our credit rating, this bill sets up a precedent that could bring down our way of government and our way of life if we continue to rely on this type of measure. I am referring to the establishment of the Super Congress.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have many committees that discuss and vote on specific subjects such as defense spending and health care. At first glance, the Super Congress seems to be just another committee. It will be divided equally between the two regular parties and between the two houses of Congress.
But look at the powers it has been given. Any bill the SC develops will get pushed quickly through the House and the Senate. It can’t be filibustered. It can’t be amended. This sounds like a good idea, given the gridlock experienced by Congress even before the Republicans gained ascendancy in the House. If filibustering or amendments were allowed, we would probably see the same gridlock when the SC presents its suggestions.
But will the Super Congress truly represent the breadth of our nation? I don’t think so. One reason is that we don’t actually have two parties in Congress right now, we have three. The Tea Party, which elected many Congressmen in 2010 and has shown its reluctance to go along with Republican leaders, is de facto a separate party. I am not a Tea Party fan, but it does seem to me that they are getting short-changed in this new Super Congress.
Another reason is the fast track on which the SC’s legislation will be placed. Because it can’t be filibustered or amended, other members of Congress, who represent other parts of the U.S., will not be able to act on behalf of their constituents other than to vote “Yea” or “Nay.”
I’ve saved the worst for last. If the plan presented by the Super Congress is not passed by December 23, an enormous wave of budget cuts will be automatically put into effect, enough to make up for the increases in the debt ceiling. Basically, the country is at the mercy of the Super Congress and its decisions. Due to the straight “up or down” vote, changes cannot be made. My Congressman cannot introduce an amendment that would protect me in any way. And if the plan isn’t passed, government will instantly be downsized at a time when we need government spending to stimulate our economy.
Watch out, America. Here comes the Super Congress! You may wish you’d never heard of a debt ceiling increase!