McConnell's last ditch debt ceiling plan: What's in it for Republicans?
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell proposes a 'last choice option' that would allow President Obama to raise the national debt ceiling without GOP support.
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Either the resolution fails in either chamber – most likely in the Democrat-controlled Senate – in which case the debt limit increase goes forward. Or, the president vetoes the disapproving resolution, requiring a two-thirds supermajority to override the veto. In other words, it would take only 33 senators and 146 House members to sustain the presidential veto and increase the debt limit.Skip to next paragraph
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So, why is the Senate minority leader making it easy for President Obama to get a $2.4 trillion increase in the national debt limit? [Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph did not list the correct post for McConnell.]
McConnell says the aim is to take the unthinkable prospect of national default in the next three weeks off the table.
“We have become increasingly pessimistic that we will be able to reach an agreement with the only person in America who can sign something into law, and that’s the president of the United States,” he told reporters at a press briefing on Tuesday.
“What we are not going to be a party to in the Senate, I’m pretty confident, is default,” he added.
Conservative critics say it’s a way for Republicans to avoid taking responsibility for two unthinkable votes – either raising taxes or forcing the nation into default.
“It’s a classic game of chicken, and the Republicans say we’re willing to resolve this in an orderly way and here’s the formulaic mechanism we want to set in place,” says Michael Franc, who heads the Heritage Foundation’s outreach to members of Congress.
“President Obama can propose a debt increase with smoke-and-mirrors spending cuts, and fiscal conservatives don’t get spending cuts anywhere,” says Chris Edward, director of the tax policy studies at the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank.
“What the Republicans should have done months ago was have reasonable cuts, pass them through the House and say: ‘This is what we want, and we’re not budging,’ ” he adds.
“The president has been allowed to promote imaginary spending cuts to which he would accede in order to get Republicans to agree to tax hikes,” said ATR president Grover Norquist, in a statement. “Republicans didn't bite. But President Obama, up until today, didn't have to disclose what imaginary spending cuts he was so reasonably prepared to accept.”
The plan also requires the president to make three separate requests for the full $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit that he has been requesting. That’s three big votes before the 2012 elections – votes Republicans expect will focus voter attention on big government and run to their advantage.
To enact McConnell’s proposal, Congress must first pass a law that authorizes the president to submit a request asking for $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit in three stages, with an initial request for $700 billion.
“One of the ways to deal with the budget is to deal with the budget process instead,” Mr. Collender says. “This is a bit of a throwback. It was inevitable that they would try to come up with some procedural gimmick.”