McConnell proposes odd “solution” to debt ceiling

Yesterday was one of the most interesting days we’ve seen during this debate between Republicans and the Obama Administration. With Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warning that Congress only has a few days to increase the debt ceiling, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a peculiar proposal:

McConnell’s proposal would authorize Obama to raise the debt ceiling in three steps, and would not require any corresponding spending cuts.
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Under the legislation, Congress could only block Obama’s requests by passing resolutions of disapproval, which would have to be supported by two-thirds of both the Senate and House to overcome an expected presidential veto.

McConnell described his proposal as a “last choice option” to avoid a national default if Congress fails to reach a compromise to raise the debt limit by Aug.
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McConnell’s plan would benefit Republicans politically by placing the responsibility for raising the debt limit almost entirely with Obama. It would allow Republicans in both chambers to vote en masse against it without causing a national economic catastrophe.

It could also hurt Senate Democrats by forcing them to support several hikes to the debt ceiling ahead of an election in which they must defend 23 seats, though Republicans expect centrist Democrats would be able to vote against the requests, given the high threshold for overriding a veto.

While the Wall Street Journal is voicing approval of McConnell’s proposal, many conservatives and tea partyers apoplectic - for example, one of the leading voices of the movement in Congress, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has already announced opposition; others don’t quite know what to make of it.

Elsewhere, Speaker John Boehner spent part of the day playing down reports from the weekend that claimed a deal had been struck on a long-term budget deal that included significant tax hikes. House Republicans also claimed that the debt ceiling is President Obama’s problem because he hasn’t given a plan to Congress that can pass.

We continue to hear tales of economic collapse and warnings that seniors may not get their Social Security checks if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. It’s a cheap scare tactic, for sure. It’s also false. James Pethokoukis noted yesterday that the federal government would have enough cash to pay basic obligations, including entitlements and interest on the national debt. Here is the chart he used, which is based on numbers from the Treasury Department:

Obama and congressional leaders will meet again today, expect more finger pointing until the 11th hour when something will finally be passed; even then the blame game won’t end.


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