Nearly every Sunday morning, as I sip coffee and flip channels back and forth between SpongeBob SquarePants and the Sunday morning talk shows, at some point I inevitably see Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Now, it has become abundantly clear that he needs to just go away.
Yesterday, just as House Speaker John Boehner seemed to be doing the right thing and steeling himself and his Republican congressmen for the resolve necessary to stand on principle and say “no” to the spendthrift culture of Capitol Hill, Sen. McConnell released what he called a “last choice option” in dealing with the controversy surrounding the debt ceiling increase. For lack of a better word, McConnell showed his hand politically, abandoned any position of strength, and essentially informed the Obama White House that it has the power here and beyond, and that the GOP is prepared to acquiesce and bend to the president’s will.
A solid synopsis of the plan, as well as its obvious and abundant drawbacks, was provided by Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner:
Under the proposal, Congress would give President Obama the authority to raise the debt limit without cutting spending by a combined total of $2.5 trillion, while needing the support of just over one-third of the House and Senate.
The way it would work would be that three times before now and next summer, Obama would make a request to Congress to raise the debt limit, and he’d have to offer a plan to cut spending by a higher amount. Both chambers of Congress would then automatically consider a resolution to disapprove of Obama’s request. If that resolution passes — i.e. if Congress votes to reject Obama’s request — then Obama could veto it. Because it takes a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a veto, that means just 34 Senators or 146 House members would be needed to sustain it and thus raise the debt ceiling.
If you sound confused, you aren’t alone. But here are a few things to keep in mind about the deal that make it unattractive for conservatives.
First, it won’t result in any spending cuts. The key caveat is that under the plan, Obama wouldn’t have to actually cut spending — he would merely have to propose spending cuts. And of course, there are plenty of ways to propose phony savings.
Second, McConnell is pitching this as a “last resort” plan if there’s a failure to reach a deal, which would be his preferred option. However, by unveiling this proposal now, it reduces the chances for the type of deal that McConnell says he supports. Obama now knows that McConnell is looking for a way out. As long as Obama feels that he has Republicans on the ropes, he’s much less likely to make the sort of concessions the GOP wants.
Third, supporters of the McConnell proposal see it as a way for Republicans to avoid default without directly having to vote on raising the debt ceiling, but that’s really a cop out. Make no mistake, any Republican who supports this McConnell proposal is giving Obama the ability to hike the debt ceiling merely by obtaining the support of just over one-third of the House and Senate. Most conservatives are smart enough to see through this gambit. A vote for the McConnell proposal should be viewed as effectively a vote to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts.
What an absolute disaster, on so many levels. It tips the GOP’s hand. It insinuates that the same party that shellacked the former majority in November 2010 is ready to cede control of the nation’s fate in order to possibly score political points. And it gives a president predisposed toward spending, class warfare and redistributive policies far too much power at a time when the oft-frustrating gridlock in D.C. is actually the nation’s saving grace — power essentially amounting to the authority to effect debt ceiling increases at his own discretion, with the hope that a sycophantic media will hold him responsible. Furthermore, as Dan Riehl points out, it will be Obama who will be holding to principles — not the GOP.
While the Republicans would avoid blame for default and the president would get the blame for additional spending under McConnell’s plan, the same would occur if the Republicans stood fast according to their ideals. Sure, there would be certain circles out to disparage the GOP regardless, but the proximate cause of any default would be the president’s own ideological rigidity. For that reason, if there is to be a debt ceiling increase–and I’m not sold on the idea that there must be–the legislation allowing for the debt ceiling increase passed by the House of Representatives needs to be crafted by the House GOP so as to include the spending cuts and entitlement reforms we so desperately need in order to reign in the out-of-control habits we see in Washington, D.C. That way, once passed through the House, it puts the Democrats in the Senate on the hook to avoid default while making the right cuts and employing the right reforms.
McConnell’s plan does none of that. While McConnell’s plan does place political pressure on the president, as any further debt ceiling increase or spending cuts–or lack thereof–would fall squarely on his shoulders, I absolutely abhor the plan for three reasons:
First, even if the president is solely to blame for increasing the debt ceiling or for avoiding certain spending cuts, he will be absolved of all responsibility by an endlessly complicit media.
Second, what this plan does is allow Republicans to both kick the debt can down the road and avoid making tough decisions when the need for tough decisions is why Republican voters turned out at the polls last year.
Third and finally, McConnell’s plan is pure politics; it spits in the face of the Resurgent Right, it is completely out of touch with the active base of the Republican Party, and it is a betrayal of the trust of the American people who turned the political tide in November of 2010.
I want principles, not politics. I think the rest of the right wants the same thing, too.
Furthermore, if it is political points that we are after, the GOP needs to stand fast by conservative principles and let the chips fall where they may. Let the president be the president threaten to suspend Social Security and veterans’ benefit checks. No amount of favorable coverage from MSNBC will cut through the notion that this president has been playing politics with the people’s livelihoods so that he could avoid needed reforms and spending cuts. Furthermore, if August 2, 2011 passes by and default indeed does occur, let this president be the president who was so ideologically rigid and divorced from reality that he refused to keep our nation out of default so that he could steadfastly continue to insist upon taxing job creators in an already struggling economy.
If it is political points we are after, standing fast and fulfilling their promises to voters will allow the GOP to win the public relations battle. Barack Obama will be the president who proposed a plan that would pay off $4 trillion in ten years after he already accrued almost $5 trillion in new debt in three years. Barack Obama will be the president who allowed Social Security and veteran’s benefits checks to lapse.
If it is political points we are after, the GOP needs to look across that Beltway poker table and call the president’s bluff. Will Barack Obama be the president who was so hell-bent on redistributing America’s dwindling wealth that he would gladly allow the United States to default on its debt? Will Barack Obama be the president who was so beholden to his radical left base that he would gladly forsake America’s oldest citizens and veterans? It’s time we find out.