Conservative Congress Members face issues

During the next several weeks, conservative members of Congress will face a perfect storm of politics over government spending.

First, they have to increase the federal borrowing limit early next month, or some agencies of government will run out of money. Much of what Washington spends is borrowed. Current law limits the federal debt to $18.1 trillion and without an increase, no more loans can be sought.

Second, big budget bills must be adopted by Dec. 11, or the government will have no authority to spend money, even if it has managed to borrow more. Failure to enact budget bills could mean a partial “government shutdown.”

Congress has avoided that several times without approving full budget bills, through passage of “continuing resolutions” that shove deadlines back a few weeks or months. But this time around, President Barack Obama has vowed he will veto any continuing resolutions. He is pressuring conservative lawmakers to give him full spending authority on his terms.

Last week, Obama and fellow liberals got some ammunition to use in their push for Congress to abandon what little spending discipline has been exercised during recent years. The Treasury Department announced the federal spending deficit for the just-ended fiscal year was the lowest in eight years.

But the amount of spending beyond our means was $439 billion. That is hardly “mission accomplished” on getting our nation’s fiscal house in order.

Compounding conservatives’ woes is ongoing controversy among Republicans over new leadership in the House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been forced out in part by GOP lawmakers who think he has not been confrontational enough with Obama over spending. New leadership will have to be put in place soon, with action needed on both the debt limit and budget issues just as a new strategy is being put in place.

So what should conservatives do? Bow to Obama and resume increasing the size of government – adding even more to the bill our children and grandchildren will have to pay?

No. Lawmakers should approve reasonable budget bills, then ensure the public understands that if Obama vetoes them, responsibility for a “government shutdown” rests with him.

While they are at it, they should approve a new debt ceiling that will reach its limit sometime late next summer – just in time for the issue of federal spending to come up before the 2016 presidential election. Reminding voters of how the candidates stand, just weeks before the election, would be a very good thing.