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Is it worth $2.5 trillion to defeat Obama?

Is it worth $2.5 trillion to defeat Obama?

Below is the video in which Mitch McConnell sets forth his proposal, and here is the WaPo analysis:

McConnell’s proposal would have the effect of forcing Obama and congressional Democrats to take full responsibility for raising the debt limit, and require Democrats to vote on the matter as many as six times between now and the 2012 election.

Historically, “when the president has asked for a debt-limit increase, he’s gotten it and his party has given it to him,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). McConnell’s proposal “gives the president 100 percent of the responsibility.”

Under the proposal, Congress would approve a joint resolution that would have to be signed by the president changing the rules surrounding the debt limit. The resolution would create a new legal structure to raise the debt limit on an installment plan. Obama would be required to request an increase in the debt limit three times — first for $700 billion, then for $900 billion and finally for another $900 billion. On each occasion, he would be required to submit a menu of spending cuts equal to the debt-limit request.

McConnell’s strategy makes no provision for those spending cuts to be enacted; aides said Republicans could pick and choose from the president’s list when they put together appropriations bills in a separate process. The strategy would also give Republicans no avenue to block a debt-limit increase.

My initial reaction is negative, but not as negative as some people.  If the authority were to give Obama the power to increase the debt limit but contingent on equivalent cuts which Obama could choose, that would make sense. 

Essentially this is a $2.5 trilliion election strategy, figuring that it is better to defeat Obama in 2012 than run the risk of consequences now which would keep Obama in office through 2016. Because by 2016 $2.5 trillion is going to seem like chump change at the rate Obama is going.

The problem is, standing firm now both is the right thing to do and may be just as good an electoral strategy. We don’t know how all this will play out, but backing down on a core principle which led to the 2010 electoral victory could just as easily fracture the Republican Party and lead to the electoral disaster we are trying to avert.

(Added) Interestingly, Grover Norquist supports the strategy [added – maybe not], and Think Progress is whining:

Each of these unnecessary steps would be repeated three times, giving Republicans a chance to bash Obama on 12 separate occasions, while avoiding any accountability for the debt ceiling increase or spending cuts. The largest of the three debt limit increases under the McConnell Plan is scheduled for the summer of 2012, to maximize political opportunities against Obama.

And keep in mind, Obama does not get his tax increases under this plan.


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It will cost us a far more if we do not.

    MadCon in reply to publiuspen. | July 12, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    The liberals at TPM are filled with glee at McConnell’s plan. Here’s what David Kurtz had to say:

    “The Republicans via Mitch McConnell just balked in an epic, paradigm-shifting way that could finally shift the long-moldering debate on fiscal policy. The debt ceiling negotiations have revealed one of the bedrock foundational elements of the GOP platform — spending cuts are the only way to balance the budget — to be built on the shifting sands of political expediency.

    “Obama needs to quickly move to declare victory in this thirty-year debate on taxes. Do it now, with the biggest, wickedest grin he can muster while Republicans are in disarray fighting amongst themselves.”

    Kurtz says it’s time for the Democrats to declare victory.
    They smell weakness in the GOP.

Yeah, instead of fighting WWII we should have merely given Hitler the rope to hang himself. Once the world saw that he was serious about exterminating all Jews, they’ll agree with us.

Divided government is not about assigning blame but checking power. This proposal is a cynical political ploy. The economy is wrecked once and for all but it’s okay because this way, the GOP is blameless? We elected them to STOP this nonsense, not immunize the GOP from blame!

This depends a lot on the rules. Are the cuts from proposed future spending, or a real cut of current discretionary spending? What I always thought of the Republicans rules for cutting spending is that the dollar for dollar ‘cut vs. debt level’ raise means that the cuts must be from the current or next years budget in real terms. Meaning if we freeze discretionary spending next year at this years levels, that is a zero dollar cut. Also, what if Obama’s list has one option on it: “The Pentagon.” Does that mean the Republicans just gave Obama carte blanch for cutting military spending?

This is like thinking three moves ahead in chess and assuming that’s enough, it’ll all play out alright in the end. I can think of at least one way it doesn’t work;

Democrats argue, come 2012, that Republicans not only approved giving the president this power, but actually came up with it to shirk from their duty, do we really want that kind of leadership in charge (and so on).

    I know. And I know that you know that I know. But do you also know that I know that you know that I know? Maybe. But what if you don’t know that I know that you know that I know?

    Gets tricky fast.


First of all, let’s not fall into a false dichotomy in which we assume either the GOP commits to this plan or Obama is reelected. Obama reelection prospects do not necessarily depend on the fate of this particular scheme.

As to the merits, it seems to me that the practical effect of this proposal is to allow Obama to continue spending at stratospheric levels but generally at the cost of the Dems’ having to vote several times to approve such spending. To me, that’s not a reasonable trade-off, for the simple reason that the GOP has control of the House and therefore can prevent Obama from spending in excess of the current debt limit. Not exercising that power, but instead empowering the Dems to raise the debt limit more-or-less unilaterally, strikes me as an abdication of leadership.

Not only this, but the whole thing is so convoluted that Obama can easily demagogue it. He can point out, correctly, that “I and the Republicans agreed on legislation that created a mechanism for increasing the debt limit so as to enable the government to keep sending out Social Security checks, keep our troops overseas fed and supplied,” etc. This would be an accurate statement, because the initial legislation, which Obama would sign, WOULD create a mechanism for serial increases in the debt limit, which WOULD prevent any kind of government shutdown.

Rather than coming up with Rube Goldberg solutions, the GOP needs to draw a clear line as to what level of cuts it will require in order to otherwise allow Obama to run the government’s fiscal operations. If they want to put the ball in Obama’s court, then do it, but be clear about it to the American people.

Donald Trump to Republicans: Don’t blow it
“The fact is if the Republicans don’t blow it, they can overturn many of the mistakes that nave been made over the last two years and beyond that,” Mr. Trump said. “[Republicans] must include Obamacare in the negotiations.”

“Republicans have all of the cards,” the New York Republican added.

I think McConnell’s plan equates to folding and walking away.

If the Republicans don’t stand up to Obama and do whatever it takes, even shutting down the government, then people are going to think they are no better than the group that was there in the 90’s and 2000’s. In other words, they will lose.

This doesn’t sound Constitutional to me, and that is what needs to be addressed.

Initially I liked the plan, but upon further consideration I’ve decided it’s too clever by half.

To quote you, Professor:

“The problem is, standing firm now both is the right thing to do and may be just as good an electoral strategy. We don’t know how all this will play out, but backing down on a core principle which led to the 2010 electoral victory could just as easily fracture the Republican Party and lead to the electoral disaster we are trying to avert.”

I’m for not backing down like we’ve done far too many times in the past.

“Mitch McConnell Just Proposed the “Pontius Pilate Pass the Buck Act of 2011″

Ace of Spades HQ
“Although… If we’ve apparently already decided to give up then I guess this lame shit is better than nothing.”

Michelle Malkin
“Another mortifying McConnell head-banging-against-the-wall moment”

“The legislation would not give Obama unilateral authority to cut spending or reduce deficits. And as such, it represents a big policy cave by Republicans, who’ve long insisted that they would not raise the debt limit without enacting entitlement cuts long-sought by the conservative movement on a bipartisan basis.”
“This is the first public blink by the GOP, and a fairly significant abdication of their leverage.”

Heritage Action, Michael A. Needham
“The plan that we are reading reports about today is a serious walk back from that position and would seemingly trade the leverage needed to achieve reforms in return for political gains.”

Ezra Klein (WaPo, JourNoList)
“Mitch McConnell’s surprising proposal to empower Barack Obama”
“the debt ceiling offers a generational opportunity to extract huge concessions from the Democrats, then walking away from that leverage simply isn’t an option, and any member of the Republican leadership who proposes to do so has to be seen as intensely suspect.”

David Weigel (Slate, JourNoList) “The Mother of All Punts”

“Something troubling happened in D.C. today, where it seems that the Senate Republican leader basically just folded like a cheap suit in the ongoing farscial standoff on the debt ceiling (which luckily should bring the whole comedy to an end and the nation can progress with its previously scheduled ponzi collapse).”

[…] Judd Legum / ThinkProgress: New McConnell Plan: We Get Everything We Want On Debt Ceiling, Plus 12 Opportunities To Bash Obama Discussion: The Caucus, National Review, Hullabaloo and Le·gal In·sur·rec· tion […]

“Under the proposal, Congress would approve a joint resolution that would have to be signed by the president changing the rules surrounding the debt limit.”

But why would Obama sign the resolution?

    Awing1 in reply to grackle. | July 12, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Because if he doesn’t sign it, Republicans will say they gave Obama a clear, no strings attached way to raise the debt limit and he refused, so he’s not serious about the issue. It’s classic politics at its ugliest, try to back the other side into a corner so no matter what they do, it’s the wrong move.

Ends do not justify means. He needs to be stopped now. Congress needs to wake up and understand that this administration’s agenda is not a partisan issue, it’s a naked power grab by the executive branch.

If McConnell thinks that Republicans will lure their past supporters back into voting booths by making those supporters sick to their stomachs with this transparent cave-in, they have been playing politics way too long.

Excuse me while I go retch.

texaswindchimes | July 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm

My first thoughts were “Oh my God, NO! How stupid can they be? We were doing so well! Did I mis-understand something? Do they have a Death Wish? Whose side are they on, really?” And like Dorothy’s Aunt, being a Christian woman….. *sigh*

huskers-for-palin | July 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

This is just dumb-dumb-dumb. This “punt” is as bad as consenting to tax increases. Obama must be defeated in 2012 !!!! We can not wait until 2016.