Steve Benen: ….. As best as I can tell, McConnell’s proposed scenario, which would avoid default, is an elaborate scheme to pass the buck.
President Obama could raise the debt ceiling, effectively on his own, with McConnell setting up a series of votes going into the 2012 election intended to put Democratic lawmakers on the spot. (McConnell’s top goal, other than defeating the president, is becoming Majority Leader in the next Congress. If he can make vulnerable Dems cast awkward votes, McConnell will do this as often as humanly possible.)
Brian Beutler unwraps the proposed solution.
The plan would require Congress to pass a bill allowing Obama to raise the debt limit on his own contingent on him taking a series of steps: Obama would have to notify Congress of his intent to 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 gives himself.
McConnell proposes extending 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 will 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.
Garance Franke-Ruta (the politics editor of The Atlantic) described this as “one of the clearest statements of legislative cowardice I’ve ever seen.”
The right, meanwhile, doesn’t seem fond of the idea – Erick Erickson (at Red State) is equating McConnell with “Pontius Pilate” and said it’s time to “burn” the Senate Minority Leader “in effigy.”
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Jay Carney’s statement:
“Senator McConnell’s proposal today reaffirmed what leaders of both parties have stated clearly, that defaulting on America’s past due bills is not an option. The President continues to believe that our focus must remain on seizing this unique opportunity to come to agreement on significant, balanced deficit reduction. As the President has said, ‘If not now, when?’ It is time for our leaders to find common ground and reduce our deficit in a way that will strengthen our economy.”
Kevin Drum (Mother Jones): ….When I read about Mitch McConnell’s debt ceiling proposal, my jaw dropped. The cynicism of the thing was enough to leave my tongue hanging out of my mouth the entire time I was writing the post below….
….McConnell wouldn’t have proposed giving Obama his debt ceiling increase with only political strings attached unless he was convinced that Republicans were losing the PR battle for a more comprehensive deal…
….Obama has been positioning himself all along as the reasonable, centrist guy, willing to agree to trillions in spending cuts as long as Republicans are willing to close a few modest tax loopholes. Last week Republicans derided Obama’s repeated focus on tax breaks for corporate jets as class warfare etc., but you know what? It must have been working. Somewhere down in the bowels of the GOP’s polling operation, they must have discovered that the public was buying Obama’s pitch that “the wealthy need to pitch in too.”
…apparently McConnell had started to realize that shutting down the government over tax breaks for hedge fund billionaires and shorter depreciation schedules for corporate jet owners was really, really, not going to go down well, even among Republicans. So he pushed the eject button and tried to bail out.
It probably won’t work, though. The political cynicism of his proposal is almost certainly too much for some Democrats, and giving up on spending cuts will be too much for most Republicans. Still, it provides a hint about who has the upper hand in the debt ceiling negotiations right now. And it ain’t McConnell.
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CBS: The Senate’s top Republican said Tuesday that he did not see a way for Republicans and Democrats to come to agreement on meaningful deficit reduction as long as President Obama remains in office.
“After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor. More here