Transparency Win? Secret $2.4 Trillion Debt-Hike Talks May End

Secret negotiations on a deal to increase the debt limit over the $14.3 trillion statutory limit have been closed to the public for weeks.  This lack of transparency is immoral and unethical.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R.-Va.) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) pulled out of the talks last week.  That leaves Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Max Baucus (D.???Mont.) and Daniel Inouye (D.???Hawaii) and Representatives Jim Clyburn (D.???S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D.???Md.) as the remaining members of the negotiating team.  Fortunately, though, these secret meetings may be coming to an end.

These elites have been seeking to increase the nation???s debt obligations by an estimated $2.4 trillion.  This isn???t the first time politicians have locked themselves away behind closed doors to cut a deal, yet the magnitude of the deal, $2.4 trillion, makes this process even more objectionable.

The debate over the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution went down a similar road: secret meetings, followed by a bad deal.  Last December, the bill that extended tax cuts for all Americans was negotiated by a handful of privileged politicians???and it ended up containing a long list of tax extenders that continued preferential tax provisions for many special-interest groups.  Lobbyists can attend these negotiations, but not you.

At a minimum, the House and Senate should conduct the debt-limit debate under the regular rules of proceeding starting today.  They should introduce the legislation and have a full and fair process, from committee hearings to final passage.

The American people have a right to know what is going on with politicians’ backroom deal-making.  Let???s hope that as a result of the breakdown in these negotiations, that finally happens.  Ultimately, it is the American people who will be on the hook for the $2.4 trillion in new debt.

Libya and the Use of Force

The House and Senate are on the verge of a big debate on Libya policy.  The House has two proposals on the table as a means for the House to debate the issue.  Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) has drafted an authorization for the use of force that expires in one year and does not authorize ground troops in Libya.  This very complex limited authorization is no substitute for the lack of leadership shown by the Obama administration in failing to go to Congress before or immediately after initiating hostilities with Libya.

Heritage Foundation experts James Carafano, James Phillips and Morgan Roach propose the following solution to the Libya issue:

???Given the commitments already made by the President, Congress should support military operations until the end of the 90-day extension NATO authorized for ???Operation Unified Protector??? in Libya.  Any funding of operations beyond that date should be prohibited unless supported by specific congressional approval.  This is an appropriate constitutional action and a clear alternative to invoking the unconstitutional provisions of the War Powers Resolution.???

Google Nation

Sen. Mike Lee (R.-Utah) has been pushing for congressional hearings to examine Google???s business practices.  Conservatives have concerns about Google???s privacy policy.

Google has raised eyebrows with a Google Street View that allows anybody to see the exact layout of your home.  It has even taken pictures of individuals on the sidewalk.  Some worry that this information, and locations from mobile phones, have been collected by Google???and that this amounts to spying on average Americans.

Cut, Cap and Balance

Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring sponsored a press conference last week promoting the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge.  A growing number of representatives and senators support ???substantial cuts in spending,??? ???enforceable spending caps??? and some version of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that limits spending to a percentage of the economy while making it hard to take the easy way out by raising taxes.  These conditions must be met before these members will allow the debt ceiling to be increased.

There may be other ideas (e.g., entitlement reform) that conservatives place on the table during this debt-limit debate that are also good ways to address to our debt crisis.  Three cheers for Hanna on his efforts to get politicians to pledge to cut spending as part of this historic debate on increasing the statutory debt ceiling.