[Author's note: the title of this article is meant to be an honest question. Given his past disapproval, why do you suppose Ron Paul signed the letter?]
Ron Paul has signed a letter addressed to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the "super committee") that recognizes their "unique opportunity and authority to act" and pledges to support their efforts in slashing the deficit.
The letter reads as follows:
We write to you as a bipartisan group of representative from across the political spectrum in the belief that the success of your committee is vital to our country's future. We know that many in Washington and around the country do not believe we in Congress and those within your committee can successfully meet this challenge. We believe that we can and we must.
To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table. In addition, we know from other bipartisan frameworks that a target of some $4 trillion in deficit reduction is necessary to stabilize our debt as a share of the economy and assure America's fiscal well-being.
Our country needs our honest, bipartisan judgment and out political courage. Your committee has been given a unique opportunity and authority to act. We are prepared to support you in this effort.
Line 62 on the list of supporters is "Paul, Ron (R-TX)." As the headline of this article asks, why would Paul sign this letter?
First, this would appear to be a very rare moment of inconsistency for Paul. Back when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, he came out with an official statement that read:
. . . [the] bill . . . assumes large tax increases in its revenue projections, with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012 calculated into the “baseline” numbers. This assumption will make it very difficult politically for Republicans to extend current tax rates beyond 2012.
He then directed very specific criticisms at the "Super Congress:"
This is nothing more than a way to disenfranchise the majority of Congress by denying them the chance for meaningful participation in the crucial areas of entitlement and tax reform.
It cedes power to draft legislation to a special commission, hand-picked by the House and Senate leadership.
The legislation produced by this commission will be fast-tracked, and Members will not have the opportunity to offer amendments. Approval of the recommendations of the “Super Congress” is tied to yet another debt ceiling increase.
This guarantees that Members will face tremendous pressure to vote for whatever comes out of this commission-- even if it includes tax increases. This provision is an excellent way to keep spending decisions out of the reach of members who are not on board with the leadership's agenda.
Later, during a Fox interview, Paul continued his criticism of the Super Congress."Where in the world did that come from and where is that going to lead to? That is monstrous. I keep looking and I can’t find any place in the Constitution where we have the authority to create such a creature as the super Congress," Paul said.
Even Business Insider had this to say about the "Super Congress":
The worry of un-debated — and potentially unconstitutional — tax increases could be only the beginning of the powers exercised by the 12-member special congressional committee. In this process the “Super Congress” could potentially circumvent any number of congressional procedures under the guise of its $1.5 trillion budget-cutting mandate.
While there’s no reason to necessarily leap to the conclusion that the “Super Congress” is a government attempt to crack down on the right to keep and bear arms, for example, it does smell more than a bit fishy.
Later, Judge Napolitano weighed in on the constitutionality of the committee's duties and responsibilities:
Now given Paul's documented disapproval of the committee, and all the other criticisms it has received, why would Paul sign a letter that acknowledges its authority?
Of course, several things need to be said about the letter before that question can be answered.
First, it is important to note that although the letter stated that a large deal was the necessary to stabilize the nation's debt, it doesn’t say anything more than that.
Second, and in the words of Deirdre Walsh of CNN, the letter is "deliberately thin on details on what the signatories believe amounts to a 'tax hike' versus new tax revenue." In fact, the letter says practically nothing at all. If anything, there may be some implied meaning in the last line of the letter where it says, "We are prepared to support you in this effort."
As Walsh speculates, this line might be a "signal to those on the panel that there will be cover from across the political spectrum if they sign onto a deal larger than the $1.2 trillion they are charged with finding."
Maybe the letter is a subtle way of saying, "Let us work with you. You don't need to do this by yourself behind closed doors."
On the other hand—and could be a real option—perhaps the signers of the letter are honest-to-God serious about the nation's financial debacle. For instance, when asked his part in drafting the letter, North Carolina Rep Heath Shuler said that he was ready to lose his seat over a vote on a deal to slash the deficit.
"I am willing to give up anything, including my next election, if what we are doing today gives us that opportunity for success for tomorrow for the next generation," he said.
If that's the case, and all of the signers are truly committed to getting America back on fiscally sound footing, then that would be a very welcome change of pace in Washington.
Otherwise, one is left wondering how Paul went from claiming that the Super Congress "disenfranchise[s] the majority of Congress by denying them the chance for meaningful participation in the crucial areas of entitlement and tax reform" to signing a letter that he reads, "Your committee has been given a unique opportunity and authority to act. We are prepared to support you in this effort."
What do you think? Final Super Committee Letter
(h/t John Galt)
Update: This article has been updated to reflect better this author's intent. Due to this author's unclear writing, some passages in the earlier version appeared to claim that Paul was supporting the committee's authority. This would be an unfair claim. The letter says nothing more than he recognizes their authority and supports their efforts to balance the budget. But can they and what part could he play in it?