There's a striking parallel between the old Jimmy Stewart movie and what Mike Lee (R-UT) is doing right now in Washington. Like Stewart in his role as Mr. Smith, Lee has taken a principled stand against all the forces arrayed against him, and he is doing what few before him have ever dared to do -- he's questioning the status quo, asking the obvious questions, and seeking to round up support from his like-minded colleagues.
The Senate still hasn't reconvened yet, but when it does the debate about spending will be front and center.
Mike Lee is doing what President Obama is failing miserably to do: provide true and effective leadership.
As never before, those who are playing politics as usual are easier to spot. Those with serious ideas are boldly declaring themselves despite the potentially suicidal political ramifications of attacking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The polling data would suggest Americans don't really want to dismantle or rearrange their entitlement programs, but if someone can make an honest case why it needs to be done and done now, I believe that principled stand will prevail.
The political miscalculation currently being made by the status quo club -- doing whatever you have to do to win the next election with enough votes -- has a very short shelf life. The America public is now poised to back leadership when they perceive leaders doing what true leaders always must do by taking a principled, rather than a politically popular, position.
In this phone interview yesterday, Lee discusses the progress being made in rounding up enough votes to pass out of the Congress a Balance Budget Amendment. He points out there will be no favorable vote on raising the debt ceiling forthcoming from him and a growing number of his colleagues without an up or down vote on the BBA. Once again, the threshold for amending Constitution is a high bar -- 2/3 in favor in both Houses of Congress, then a 3/4 ratification by the states.
Knowing it will take years to achieve, perhaps, isn't as important as the signal it sends to Americans and the whole world that the United States is serious about taking the corrective steps necessary to rescue our economy from the disastrous trajectory that it is on.
That said, Lee adds in this interview what is fact. The U.S. would not default on its credit obligations if the debt ceiling isn't raised. The Treasury takes in ten times what it owes in interest obligations. Suggesting a credit default in the absence of the vote to raise the debt ceiling is just wildly irresponsible. It hasn't seemed to matter which political party is in power, they have gone to that trough now one too many times.
I like Mike. He's speaking from a position of strength. I don't know how persuasive he'll be in the end of the day among his colleagues in the Senate, but whatever the final outcome may be I am grateful for his leadership in this area. It's only going to take a few more votes to make his proposition viable. I'm hoping the American people will have the integrity to back their elected representatives when it comes to the final vote after all the debating ahead. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) also has a plan worth considering.
We have a better chance now than ever to put the federal government in a strangle hold on discretionary spending. People from both parties would be well-advised to follow Senator Lee's admonitions.