The Mother of All Punts?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 12 2011 3:13 PM

The Mother of All Punts?

The details of Mitch McConnell's back-up plan for the debt limit are breathtaking in their simplicity. Jennifer Rubin got it right first.

The plan “would give the President the ability to request smaller increases in the debt ceiling — coupled with proposed spending cuts of at least $2.5 trillion over the next year. It would provide for up to three separate sets of votes on a resolution disapproving of the increase — one later this month, the second in the fall of 2011 and the third in the summer of 2012. The plan is modeled on the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which established expedited procedures by which Congress may disapprove agencies’ rules by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval.” The first set of votes would avoid the current default danger and ask the president for a $700 billion increase in the debt ceiling; two subsequent requests would be for $900 billion increases.
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The resolutions of disapproval require 1/3 -- yes, 1/3 -- votes. The president can veto them, but if he vetoes them, he has to outline the cuts that would pay for the spending.

Erick Erickson offers a measured reaction, accusing McConnell of going "Pontius Pilate" and settling for a "dog and pony show of feigned cuts" while letting Barack Obama raise the debt ceiling. House Republicans don't yet know what to make of it; because it's originating in the Senate, they don't yet know if they'll get a vote on a plan like this, or what. But let's say it gets to a vote. I don't know why a Republican would support this. If it lays the debt problem at Barack Obama's doorstep, big deal -- that's where it already was. Barack Obama was always going to take the blame for the debt limit increase, especially from Republicans.

UPDATE: It's worth noting here that House Republicans are explaining and exploring other solutions, solutions that involve their votes. The McConnell plan is not the solution; it's one plan that, according to its own theory, would leave cuts up to the White House with Congress playing a bystander role.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.