Mitch McConnell Doesn’t Care About Debt Reduction [Updated With Conservative Reactions]

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McConnell. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Two days ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed to have a contingency plan in case the debt-ceiling talks failed. This afternoon, he revealed it. Instead of Congress raising the debt ceiling, the debt ceiling would be raised at President Obama's request, unless a (highly unlikely) veto-proof majority in Congress votes to stop him. The details, via the Weekly Standard:

To counter Obama, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell unveiled legislation requiring the president to submit a series of three requests — now, in the fall, and next summer — to increase the debt ceiling.

Each request would have to include spending cuts in excess of the amount of the increase in the limit on borrowing. If Congress rejected the cuts as insufficient by passing a “resolution of disapproval,” the president could send a new package of cuts or veto the resolution. Should his veto be sustained — at least 34 senators would be needed — the debt limit would rise with no cuts attached.

In other words, McConnell would rather give Obama the ability to raise the debt ceiling while cutting nothing than sign on to a compromise $4 trillion debt-reduction plan that includes some tax increases. Clearly, debt reduction is not McConnell's priority. His priority is setting up a system in which Obama and the Democrats receive all the blame for raising the debt ceiling over and over throughout election season as the blameless GOP stands on the sidelines scolding them for their irresponsible, spendthrift ways. After all his talk about how an increase in the debt ceiling must be tied to significant cuts — the very health of the Republic is at stake!!! — McConnell has decided that fiscal responsibility is actually secondary to political expediency. It's hard to see how the tea party is going to be happy with this at all.

Republicans Introduce Plan, Go On Offensive [Weekly Standard]

Update: The reaction from conservatives has been mixed so far, with some people seeing McConnell's plan as savvy, others as a betrayal:

Newt Gingrich, Twitter:

McConnell's plan is an irresponsible surrender to big government, big deficits and continued overspending. I oppose it.

Michelle Malkin:

We exasperated grass-roots conservatives don’t call the GOP the Stupid Party for nothing.

Three letters come to mind:

W.T.F.?!!

Erick Erickson, Red State:


Mitch McConnell is right now talking about making a historic capitulation. So fearful of being blamed for a default, McConnell is proposing a compromise that lets Barack Obama raise the debt ceiling without making any spending cuts at all .... 2014 cannot come soon enough to destroy the political future of this weasel.

Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform via National Review:

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says he supports Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “contingency plan” designed to force President Obama to assume nearly all of the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling.

“Obama is playing politics,” Norquist tells National Review Online in an interview. “Republicans need to force him to do what the established press is not doing. He says he’s got a serious proposal. Could we see it written down please?”

John Podhoretz, Contentions/Commentary:

In almost fiendishly clever fashion, McConnell is calling the president’s bluff. He is agreeing that the immediate crisis must be resolved, and so is taking steps to resolve it. And he is saying that the parties are just too far apart on questions of core principle to make a bigger deal .... People can scream all they like, but some form of the McConnell proposal is what is almost certainly going to be the way we go. The 2012 election is the venue where this will all get sorted out.

Jennifer Rubin, Right Turn/Washington Post:

McConnell’s plan is the ultimate backstop. If Obama doesn’t get off his tax hikes, McConnell has a plan ready for a vote. Democrats could try to filibuster it, but default would then result. It is time to change the rules of the game, McConnell has decided. Let’s see what happens.

Philip Klein, Washington Examiner:

McConnell is known for his mastery of procedure, but this is a cynical attempt to manipulate procedure in a way that tries to escape any sort of responsibility. It's only justification is purely political -- to allow Republicans avert being blamed for default without having to directly vote on the debt ceiling, while putting all the burden on Democrats -- but there's no policy justification for such a move, and it certainly takes us no closer to tackling the debt.

Orrin Hatch, Twitter:

The only plan I support is the @CutCapBalance plan. Anything else doesn't go far enough to get this country back on track. #utpol #tcot

FreedomWorks, Twitter:

Sen. McConnell thinks cutting spending is too hard. Help him find his spine! Call him at 202-224-2541