Last year's tussle over increasing the federal debt limit showed Congress at its worst, paralyzed by dueling ideologies and incapable of striking a grand bargain. The eventual compromise by lawmakers and the White House raised the debt ceiling enough to last until the end of 2012 or early 2013, giving voters a chance to shuffle the deck in Washington before the next round of negotiations. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), however, has been calling on Congress to take up the issue before the election, saying Congress shouldn't wait He's got a point, but the debt ceiling bill is the wrong place for that debate.
As much as House Republicans complain about Washington's fiscal mess, they haven't tried to translate the most important (and controversial) elements of their deficit-cutting plans into legislation even in their own chamber. Those include the proposals by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to rein in spending on Medicare and Medicaid and eliminate at least some of the exemptions, deductions and credits in the tax code.
Not that Senate Democrats or President Obama are likely to support them. Democrats have insisted that tax increases be part of any plan to bring the debt under control, and Republicans have rejected any major hike in revenue. But that's a fight worth having. Substantive, thorny issues such as entitlements and taxes lie at the heart of the long-term debt problem, and lawmakers absolutely should be debating them — even if it's just to score political points and hope voters will respond in November.