In a proposed "backup plan," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to empower President Obama to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling in incremental steps even if Democrats and Republicans can't strike a deal. Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seem open to discussing McConnell's "last-choice option" to keep the government from running out of money on Aug. 2. But some Tea Party Republicans said the proposal scuttles the effort to make huge spending cuts part of any agreement to increase the nation's legal borrowing limit. Is the GOP really throwing in the towel?
Yes. McConnell is betraying conservatives: The Senate Minority Leader is so afraid that Republicans would be blamed if the nation defaults, says Erick Erickson at RedState, that he's "talking about making a historic capitulation." His proposal would let Obama "raise the debt ceiling pretty much automatically," unless two-thirds of both houses of Congress object, without making a single spending cut. That's not leadership — it's handing Democrats what they want on a silver platter.
"Mitch McConnell just proposed the 'Pontius Pilate Pass the Buck Act of 2011?"
Wait, this is no sellout: McConnell's not surrendering, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. He's just forcing "Obama to take ownership of any debt-limit increase." Although "we'd far prefer a bipartisan deal to cut spending and reform entitlements without a tax increase," Obama will never go for it. McConnell's plan does give Obama more money to continue his big-spending ways, but Republicans don't have to commit "debt-limit harakiri" by helping him do it.
No matter how you spin it, the GOP loses: McConnell wants Republicans "to abandon all spending cuts," says Hunter at Daily Kos, "rather than risk having to vote for closing any corporate tax loopholes, any increases taxes on the wealthy, etc." This way, everyone in the GOP can vote on the losing side against every hike in the debt ceiling and say to voters, "Look at us, we're responsible and stuff!" But that's not much of a reward for such a "massive concession of defeat" in the GOP's drive to slash spending.
"McConnell waves white flag on debt ceiling?"
Give McConnell credit. This is smart: A grand bargain on the deficit just isn't possible, says John Podhoretz at Commentary. Democrats don't want spending cuts, and Republicans don't want tax increases, so a fix like McConnell's is inevitable to resolve the immediate crisis. Plus, "McConnell is calling the president's bluff" by saying Obama should make the call on hiking the debt ceiling. This way, voters will know who to blame in 2012. When you think about it, that's "almost fiendishly clever."
"Remember when I said no grand bargains? I was right"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How Israel's hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Why your employer should clean your house and do your laundry
- 10 things you need to know today: August 21, 2014
- Don't listen to Paul Ryan: The GOP is still the party of makers and takers
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The big policy question libertarians can't answer
Subscribe to the Week