From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has proposed creating an escape hatch for Congressional Republicans, who have put themselves in a box by threatening not to raise the national debt limit if Democrats don’t agree to trillions of dollars in cuts to popular social programs.
The plan is designed to give President Obama the power to raise the debt limit on his own through the end of his first term, but to force Democrats to take a series of votes on the debt limit in the months leading up to the election. This would stave off the threat of defaulting on national obligations, but keep the charged issues of debt and spending at the center of political debate for months.
The development confirms suspicions that the GOP was unwilling to truly use the looming debt ceiling as leverage to force conservative-friendly changes to popular entitlement programs, but suggests strongly that Republicans plan to continue politicking on fiscal issues through the 2012 elections.
The plan would require Congress to pass a bill allowing Obama to raise the debt limit on his own, contingent on a series of steps: Obama would have to notify Congress of his intent tor raise the debt limit — a high-sign to Congress that would be subject to an official censure known as a “resolution of disapproval,” and which Obama could veto. If he vetoed the resolution, and if Congress sustained the veto, then Obama would also have to outline a series of hypothetical spending cuts he’d make, equal to the amount of new debt authority he’d give himself. Only then would the Treasury be allowed to issue new debt.
McConnell proposes rolling out this process in three tranches, to force Obama to request more borrowing authority, and to force debt limit votes in Congress, repeatedly through election season.
The legislation would not give Obama unilateral authority to cut spending or reduce deficits. And as such, it represents a big policy cave by Republicans, who’ve long insisted that they would not raise the debt limit without enacting entitlement cuts long-sought by the conservative movement on a bipartisan basis. But, if Dems buy into this option, it will keep the potent debt issue alive, and central to politics, for much of this election season.
I asked McConnell if he’d cleared this backup plan with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). “I’ve spoken about it with others,” he said.
This is the first public blink by the GOP, and a fairly significant abdication of their leverage.
Asked about it at his press conference, just after McConnell’s, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was non-committal. “I’m not about to trash his proposal, it’s something I will look at, something I will look at intently,” Reid said.
From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has given what seems like a stamp of approval to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) fallback strategy to avoid a catastrophic default on U.S. debt. “His idea if we can’t get there, none of us believe we ought to default on the full faith and credit of the United States government,” Boehner said. “I think that idea and there are other ideas out there in terms of backup plans. In case we can’t come to an agreement…. Everybody believes there needs to be a backup plan if we are unable to come to an agreement. I think Mitch has done good work.”
Then Bronzo the Clown heaved a sigh of relief, untwisted the knife from his back which was placed there by Eric Cantor, and went to change his poopy pants.