Op-Ed: GOP must prevent a lame-duck looting session

By Senators Ron Johnson, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham

If Republicans want to win big in November, we must do more than show voters how we plan to govern in 2013. We must also demonstrate how we’re working right now to stop the last-minute spending spree the Democrats have planned for December.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wants to force a postelection lame-duck session of Congress, in which defeated politicians will no longer be accountable to voters. In that context, he will have more leverage to raise taxes and increase spending against the threat of yet another government shutdown, leaving taxpayers on the hook for more borrowing, debts and deficits.

Republicans in the House and the Senate must work together to avert a disastrous postelection looting of the taxpayer. We urge House Republicans to pass — before the August break — a responsible plan that funds the government into the next year, leaving major issues for the newly elected president and Congress.

Should Republicans fail to do this, Americans can expect another carefully choreographed crisis that will needlessly take government to the brink of a shutdown, without concern for voters, consumers and businesses that desperately need stability amid these fragile economic times.

A series of terrible events will occur at or near the year’s end if Congress does not act soon. The current tax rates are set to jump beginning next year. Medicare payments to physicians will expire. Defense spending will be gutted. The government is also likely to reach the debt ceiling again.

Despite this coming “fiscal cliff,” Congress will take its monthlong break in August. The delay is deliberate. History shows that by waiting until the last minute, creating an atmosphere of confusion, fear and alarm, proponents of big government give themselves a much better shot at getting what they want. Lame-duck sessions have been used in the past to ram through gas tax hikes, congressional pay raises, debt limit increases, thousands of wasteful earmarks and trillions of dollars in new spending.

When Congress returns the second week of September, there will only be three short weeks until the next government shutdown. That’s due to Reid’s refusal to pass a budget in the last three years and his failure this year to pass a single government funding bill.

In these moments of planned chaos, Reid will do all he can to divide Republicans and depress their supporters over matters of taxes and spending. But we know his primary goal is to force Republicans into accepting a stopgap, temporary, two-month government spending bill, called a continuing resolution. If he accomplishes this, Congress will be forced to reconvene for a lame-duck session in late November or December to complete its work for the year.

That’s when the real mischief can begin.

During that time, under the gloomy cloud of yet another government shutdown, members of Congress who lose in the 2012 elections can freely vote to raise taxes, increase spending, pass international treaties, increase the debt limit and gut national defense. They will never have to answer to voters again.

These important issues should not be decided in panicked moments. And it would be a complete disservice to the public if we chose to let an old Congress, completely unaccountable to voters, determine the major issues of our day.

We cannot give Reid this chance. Let us repeat: House Republicans need to pass the plan to keep the government funded through 2013 before the August recess.

Republicans should use the August recess to discuss their plan to keep the government running until next year. Senate Republicans can then force a vote on the House-passed government funding legislation. This will make it very difficult for Reid and President Obama to make an honest case that Republicans are threatening to shut down the government.

Responsible leadership never would have created this mess, but we need responsible leadership to get us out of it. If Republicans don’t take bold action today to save our nation from fiscal collapse, there is little reason for voters to believe we ever will.

Sens. Jim DeMint, R, and Lindsey Graham, R, represent South Carolina. Sen. Ron Johnson, R, represents Wisconsin.

Published by The Washington Examiner.