Saying Mitch McConnell is a weak leader is like saying the sun is hot, there’s little point in stating the obvious. The earmark-loving leader of the Senate Republicans leader has a plan to avert the debt ceiling “crisis” – punt. The possible deal being reported is that Congress will give the President increases in the debt ceiling unless, basically, a veto-proof majority rejects it. It’s more involved than that, but that’s the gist of it.
Senator McConnell announced last week a contingency plan. The plan basically would give the President $2.4 trillion in debt limit authority in three tranches (Washington word for stacks of your money) and the President would be empowered to marry cuts to these increases in debt limit authority. The Congress would be empowered by a 2/3rds vote to legislatively veto any proposed cuts by the Administration, as a package deal, with these three increases in debt limit authority.
For example, the first batch of $750 billion in new borrowing authority might be conditioned by the President on massively cutting defense spending. Then Congress would have to vote, in both chambers by a 2/3rds vote, to stop these cuts. This seems at first glace to be a ill conceived and desperate idea out of the Republican “Leadership” to save face. It also may be unconstitutional, in that the legislature can’t delegate this type of authority under the Constitution.
McConnell thinks punting, chickening out, will somehow put the pressure on Democrats to…yeah, I don’t know either. He seems to think Democrat voters give a damn about spending or deficits at all (they don’t) or independents will rush to the polls in a year to vote out liberals who forced him to cave on an issue they don’t understand or particularly care about while they’re busy looking for work. The only way McConnell’s reported idea could be worse is if he insisted on more tax increases than Obama wanted because, essentially, allowing a debt ceiling increase without any spending cuts, or even with, IS a tax hike, only on the future. And the future was already screwed…
So what could a Senate Republican leader with testicular fortitude do? Since there isn’t one, this is all hypothetical.
First – Nothing. Obama is threatening to cut off Social Security payments, much like he threatened not to pay the military in the budget debate earlier in the year. If the debt limit was hit with no deal, the President would be forced to choose priorities for the nation’s money until a deal was reached. If he were to cut off Social Security, the military or any other program that directly and deliberately hurt people, that would be on him. You can really tell the character of the man, and the party, by him even making such a threat. But Democrats are no strangers to scare tactics, it’s where they live. Why not expose them?
Second – Instead of wussing out, why not offer, and have the House pass, a deal along the following lines:
Large spending cuts up front. Since no Congress can bind future Congresses, immediate cuts are the only type that will have any impact whatsoever. Promises of future cuts are a joke and a lie. It’s a lie Republicans have fallen for before. Both President Reagan and George H.W. Bush fell for this lie in exchange for tax hikes. So why not flip it?
Massive cuts up front coupled with triggers for votes on tax increases in the future if certain deficit specific benchmarks aren’t met. The spending decreases with realistic targets for both deficit shrinking and economic growth, which would increase revenue to the government. If, and only IF, these benchmarks aren’t met, then Congress would be compelled to vote on various tax increases.
No one knows who will be in the White House in a few years, or which party will be controlling Congress, so the tax hikes are not guaranteed. But the spending cuts would be, at least at the start. Once you lower the baseline, which would be immediate, the debt curve would start to point down.
This is no long-term solution, but given who is in the White House and who controls both sides of the aisle in the Senate, it’s possibly the best deal we could hope for. Everyone gets what they want, at least on paper. If Democrats are able to retake all branches of government in the 5-8 years, whatever it ends up being, when the triggers kick in, then Republicans haven’t been able to explain the importance of that vote to the American people, or have failed so horribly that they deserve to lose and the American people will get what they deserve. No one would go into those elections blindly.
We aren’t going to get the needed entitlement reform, Democrats simply don’t care about the future when they can try to scare people into voting for them. So this type of deal is probably the best we could hope for. It’s at least something worth trying before laying down our arms and following Leader McConnell into worthlessville.
This will have to be proposed by Speaker Boehner since McConnell has turned to jelly, but everyone knew that was likely to happen anyway.
So far, Boehner has been solid. Let’s hope he continues to be, especially now that it looks like he’s got a two-front war on his hands
You can follow Derek on Twitter by clicking here.