When John Boehner picked up the Speaker's gavel in January 2011, he also laid down some new rules regarding the U.S. national debt. Despite the near-doubling of the red ink and the seven debt limit increases under President Bush (all of which Boehner supported), the first Boehner Rule demands "cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase." And now that House Republicans have voted to suspend the debt ceiling until mid-May, Speaker Boehner has issued a new decree that "it's time for us to come to a plan that will in fact balance the budget over the next 10 years."
Unfortunately for the Speaker and his GOP allies, Congressional Republicans have already violated Boehner's new rules on both counts. As it turns out, last spring 228 GOP Representatives and 41 Republican Senators voted for the 2012 Paul Ryan budget that adds trillions more in new debt over the next decade.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained last March, the "Ryan plan [is] unlikely to balance the budget for decades." And for his part, Speaker Boehner admitted as much. As he explained to a Tea Party gathering in April 2011:
"We're going to have to raise it again in the future," he added. With the mass retirement of America's Baby Boomers, he explained, it would take 20 years to balance the U.S. budget and 30 years after that to erase the nation's huge fiscal deficit.
And in May 2012, Boehner acknowledged that the Paul Ryan budget almost all Republicans backed would violate "my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase":
"Yeah, the big bad House Republican budget that would just gut everything under the sun, according to my friends across the aisle, would still require a $5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling over the next 10 years. Why? Because of the great big demographic bubble -- baby boomers like me, that are going to retire and continue to retire for the next 20-25 years. It's a big challenge."
The Ryan budget poses a big challenge, all right, but not for the reason Boehner claimed.