Shortly after Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his “contingency” plan for a debt limit increase, the Associated Press bulletin read: “GOP Leader McConnell proposes giving Obama new power for automatic debt limit increase.”
It’s surely not the headline McConnell wanted, but unlike much of the media coverage of the debt fight, it’s accurate. And that’s a problem.
It is not, however, the main problem with the McConnell plan. Far worse, in my view, is that the plan isolates House Republicans, it undercuts their (tentative) plan to offer an aggressive debt limit proposal of their own, it turns their principled intransigence from a possible strength to a certain liability, and it virtually ensures that, in the event of default, Republicans – not the White House – will be blamed.
McConnell’s plan gives the president the ability to raise the debt ceiling through 2012, in three separate increments, by requiring Obama to propose spending cuts greater than each request. Its main virtue is that these hikes would have to pass largely with Democratic support – something that McConnell and others believe will redound to Republicans’ benefit heading into the 2012 election cycle. And, the theory goes, if President Obama offers phony spending cuts, as he almost certain to do, his posturing as the “adult in the room” on entitlements and spending will be exposed as unserious.
But there’s the catch, too: the spending cuts do not have to be real or even implemented in order for the president to get his debt ceiling increases. McConnell acknowledged this at the press conference to announce the plan Tuesday afternoon. ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked: “Does it guarantee you’ll get your spending cuts or not?” McConnell responded: “No, it doesn’t.”
Read More at the Weekly Standard by Stephen F. Hayes, the Weekly Standard
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