Time to give GOP new mandate to govern

The vote in Congress this week to raise the debt ceiling shows the power of the people to change the debate in Washington. In 2010, the American people changed the terms of our ongoing debate over federal spending and debt. In 2012, the resolution of that debate will arrive, and the people will have the chance to strengthen their message into a mandate.

President Obama and his big government allies in Congress are clearly dismayed at how the conversation has shifted since last November. A year ago, they were asking all the wrong questions: How can we spend more money we don't have? How can we create even more job-killing regulations? How can we increase the size and scope of government?

But voters sent new voices to Washington to join those of us asking the right questions:

How can we cut government spending? How can we keep taxes low? And how can we get Washington's boot off the neck of America's job creators, especially our small businesses?

Together our voices made a difference in the debate over the debt ceiling. Just a few short weeks ago, President Obama wanted Congress to write him the biggest blank check ever, so that he could borrow and spend trillions more to help get him through his re-election campaign.

With the support of the American people, Republicans refused to sign that blank check. The president backed down. And that option was no longer on the table.

Next, President Obama wanted greater "revenues," which is just Washington's way of saying that they want to take more money out of the people's pockets and use it for more spending.

With the support of the American people, Republicans told the president that raising taxes during a weak economy was unacceptable. Once again, the president backed down. And that option came off the table as well.

Republicans held the line on taxes and canceled the president's blank check. We won the argument that spending cuts are the key to reducing our debt and balancing our budget. That's pretty good work for a party that only controls one-third of one-half of the federal government.

Yet despite refocusing the debt-ceiling debate on out-of-control federal spending, the actual spending cuts in the compromise bill are too small. The $2.1 trillion in potential debt reduction is far less than we need to prevent a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating, according to many analysts. All the spending cuts so far are backloaded, with only $21 billion scheduled to be cut from next year's deficit. The Pentagon is specifically targeted for spending cuts, even as our troops are fighting three wars and other security threats loom on the horizon.

So I sympathize with my colleagues, as well as many Republican candidates, who say that the compromise bill does not fix the problem. They are right. A far better alternative was Cut, Cap, and Balance. A far better budget is the Pathway to Prosperity. I voted for both of those plans, and I wish we had the votes to enact both of them into law.

But until more reinforcements arrive in Washington, I am for capturing ground when we can. The bill does cut spending in the short term, however modestly. The bill provides an opportunity to address entitlement reform, without which government spending will become impossible to control. The bill sets a precedent that spending cuts must accompany increases in the debt ceiling, and it guarantees a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. This bill delivers far more than many conservatives expected with such a big spender in the White House.

That big spender will be on the ballot next November, along with dozens of his political allies in Congress. That's the opportunity for Republicans to win not only an election but also a mandate to govern. With such a mandate, we won't need to content ourselves with merely stopping some of the bleeding of borrowed money. Instead, we can help our nation get back on its feet, help more Americans get back to work, and help build an economy that's healthy and strong.

Originally posted in Houston Chronicle.



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