The McConnell Plan and the GOP House
So just how hostile is the GOP House toward McConnell’s new debt ceiling gambit (not to mention tax increases)? Here are some excerpts from a chat I had early yesterday evening with a GOP Hill source with good knowledge of the caucus. I think it gives some pretty good color:
Members are really, really dug in. Even a deal with $2 trillion in cuts would be a tough sell. Obama going on TV and repeatedly and being the champion of America’s debt crisis has resulted in members getting frustrated. They have sort of latched onto Obama’s $4-5 trillion [debt cut] number, they just don’t want to do it with tax increases. They longer Obama plays that, the more likely it is we end up not getting anything done. It might have been possible to sell members on the [$2-2.5 trillion] deal two weeks ago but I don’t think that is the case right now. He raised the stakes. The White House does not seem to be taking [Boehner and Cantor] at their word when they say tax increases won’t pass the House. They think it’s a negotiating ploy.
The [McConnell plan] is shrewd but it doesn’t help the House majority. I don’t see how members could vote for that — tough enough selling them on a $2 trillion cut with no tax increases. If markets start reacting, it’s more likely Republicans will get blamed. But even in that scenario, there would be trouble getting a tax increase through the House. Someone will blink if markets start tumbling, but I don’t see House members voting for a tax increase. If Obama puts out a detailed policy proposal, his own party will revolt against him.
But the ball is now in the House’s court. What will it do? Bill Kristol sees some options:
Plan A: They pass their optimal version of a debt ceiling increase—some version of the Cut/Cap/Balance proposal, with major domestic discretionary and entitlement spending cuts, spending caps, and at least a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Voting for this, like passing the Ryan budget, puts House Republicans in the position of claiming to have a serious and comprehensive governing plan
Plan B: The House (also?) passes a short-term debt ceiling increase of “only” several hundred billion dollars, accompanied by several hundred billion dollars of domestic discretionary cuts. …
Plan C: The problem with both Plans A and B is that they do involve voting for an increase in the debt limit, which many House Republicans don’t want to do in the first place. … So why, some of them will say, ever vote for any debt ceiling increase at all? What’s in it for Republicans to be part of any process whose ultimate effect will be to authorize the federal government, under the management of President Obama, to plunge the nation ever deeper and more dangerously into debt?
One could answer that voters did send House Republicans to Washington to at least try to govern responsibly, and that Plans A and B embody such an effort. And that in voting for the Ryan budget, the House GOP has in effect voted to raise the debt ceiling. But that leads us to Plan C, which could either stand alone (i.e., one could skip Plans A and B) or be a follow-on to Plans A and B if they fail. … House Republicans could allow Democrats to pass a no-tax-hike, no-gutting-of-defense version of a debt ceiling hike in the House. Speaker Boehner would have to round up (if I’ve done the math correctly) 48 Republican members who would agree to vote present on such a debt limit increase. The other 192 GOP members would vote no. The 193 Democrats would be welcome to vote yes and to pass the bill.