Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is preparing legislation to lift the debt ceiling by $1.1 trillion, enough to cover borrowing through the end of 2014. The move would push the next debate over the debt limit until well after the mid-term elections. Congress enacted a similar measure in 2011, pushing the debate past the 2012 elections.
Reid’s legislation would be, in Washington parlance, “clean.” It would contain no spending cuts or spending reforms and would preserve the spending status quo. GOP Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasted Reid’s proposal.
“What he proposes is to raise the debt limit by $1 trillion but not do anything about the debt,” McConnell said. “Not a single reform to get spending under control. We’ve got a debt close to $17 trillion.”
Republican Sens. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) have said they could support Reid’s debt hike.
Reid’s move runs against the conventional wisdom that debt ceiling fights are damaging for Republicans. The media and pundits have been saying that the GOP is on a “suicide mission” for wanting negotiations over a debt ceiling hike. The GOP brand was supposedly badly damaged as a result of the last debt ceiling debate, in 2011.
If that’s true, wouldn’t Reid want to have the debt debate just before the midterm elections? If the debate is so damaging for Republicans, it seems Reid and Senate Democrats would be eager to have the debate in the weeks ahead of voters going to the polls.
The truth is, the public sees the debate over the debt ceiling as a consequence of out-of-control spending in Washington. A strong majority of Americans, 61%, think significant spending cuts have to be part of any package to increase the debt.
That is a debate Reid doesn’t want to have in an election year. The GOP should embrace that debate.