The debt deal

But that’s not the end of the fight over debt, said U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Lankford visited Oklahoma Gazette Aug. 3 and discussed the debt-ceiling debate and legislation, as well as several other issues.

The freshman congressman voted for the deal, but expressed doubt about what could be achieved to reduce the nation’s debt through a single piece of legislation.

“It’s only partially over. The actual war on debt has just begun,” Lankford said. “After seven months of talking about it, there were some people, I feel like, who had an unrealistic expectation of what we could accomplish in one bill.”

Lankford said there are parts of the deal that he doesn’t like, such as it not immediately addressing discretionary or mandatory spending. But overall, the deal is adequate: It cut $7 billion in discretionary spending next year and changed the upward trajectory of federal spending by flattening it.

“The deal itself is not as bad as it’s portrayed to be, but it’s not as good as I would like it to be. It really doesn’t deal with immediate spending as fast as it needs to deal with it, but we’re getting this huge hit on ‘You’re throwing the poor out in the streets,’” Lankford said.

Lankford, along with other members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, received some criticism for voting for the deal, and some have said the debt ceiling should not have been raised at all.

“I think anyone who says we’ll never have to raise the debt ceiling again, we can in just one month stop making all payments and get back in balance, underestimates how bad it really is,” Lankford said. “Quite frankly, for people who said to me, ‘Just let the economy collapse, that will teach them,’ I just beg to differ, because the people who would suffer the most are not in Congress. It’s a tough lesson to teach Congress, by causing a worldwide collapse of the economy, about ineptitude.”

Lankford said there are three ways the next debt ceiling debate could play out: The bipartisan 12-member committee established by the legislation could create a proposal to cut $1.5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. Simple majorities in the House and Senate would pass the proposal, and the debt ceiling issue would be addressed after the 2012 elections.

Alternatively, Congress could approve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and send  it
to the states, which would automatically raise the debt ceiling $1.5
trillion. Failing those two accomplishments, there would be $1.2
trillion in cuts across the board, except for Social Security, Medicaid
and veterans’ benefits.

“No
one wants that (last) one,” Lankford said. “The president doesn’t want
that one because it lands the debate right in front of the election.
Democrats and Republicans don’t want that one because it’s
indiscriminate on how it cuts. It leaves really two options on how to
get there: a balanced-budget amendment or the select committee do your
job and to pass this.”

Switching gears, Lankford said he expects Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run for president.

“I can’t imagine he’s not,” Lankford said. “Everything is set up in a way that’s set up to run.”

Lankford
said the decision not to seek re-election from U.S. Rep. Dan Boren,
D-Okla., came as a surprise to him, but that, being part of the minority
party, and as part of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition out of favor
with Democratic leadership, there was probably little Boren could
accomplish.

“He
kept that as a very tight-lipped secret,” Lankford said. “If he’s going
to sit there and do nothing for a couple of years, it would be a lot
more fun to be with his (10-month-old) son and watch him grow up.”

Lankford,
who is a signee on Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform pledge
that was the subject of much debate during the debt-ceiling drama, said
pledges signed by candidates on both sides of the political spectrum
often are employed as a tool against the candidate if they are perceived
to be stepping out of line.

“That’s
part of the wonderful noise of the American process — that freedom to
associate and assemble — but it’s being used in a way that is unique to
this time period because of the way we can flow information.”

Lankford
said he plans to spend the House recess visiting with constituents and
explaining the debt-ceiling deal to them, his reasons for voting for it,
and getting their feedback on the issues.

Following
the harsh debt ceiling fight, on Aug. 5 Standard & Poor’s
downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA-plus, prompting the Dow
Jones industrial average to fall more than 500 points at press time.

Clifton Adcock

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