Is This the Face-Saving Debt Ceiling Compromise Bill?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 14 2011 2:34 PM

Is This the Face-Saving Debt Ceiling Compromise Bill?

In my piece today, I conveyed the wisdom of some Hill aides who thought the most likely way out of the debt ceiling fight was a vote on a spending cap -- something like Sen. Claire McCaskill's "CAP" legislation. (I wrote about that legislation in "Tea Party Democrats," back in February.)

By pure coincidence, McCaskill joined her original co-sponsor Bob Corker and three newer sponsors -- John Kyl, Joe Lieberman, and Ron Johnson -- to make another pitch for the bill today.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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McCaskill was asked back in February if she wanted this bill to be included with a vote on the debt limit. She said no then, and she said no today. But her co-endorsers were more open to the idea. Lieberman said that his fellow moderate senators had met on Tuesday, and convinced him that "something like this has a chance."

"We were talking about the debt ceiling," said Lieberman, "and it was quite significant -- everyone in the room said they were not prepared to vote for a, quote, 'clean' debt ceiling extension. In other words, they wanted something to happen that would give them and their constituents some kind of confidence that while we were increasing the debt ceiling we were actually doing something to lower the debt."

I asked Johnson whether he would vote to raise the debt ceiling if this bill was made part of the vote. Not quite, he said.

"I would love to see, married with this piece of legislation, also a constitutional limitation," said Johnson. "I'm willing to look at any fiscal limitation -- the more the better, honestly."

Conservatives criticized this bill in February on the grounds that it was not strict enough. It would force Congress to abide by spending limits that could be waived by 2/3 votes in the House and Senate, but it has exceptions and takes a long time to trigger. But the addition of a self-identified Tea Party endorser (Johnson) and the GOP's whip (Kyl) signal where this is heading.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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