We seem to be coming closer to a deal on the debt ceiling. It begins with the McConnell plan, in which the debt ceiling is raised three times between now and November, and each time, Republicans are able to offer a resolution of disapproval. Then it adds in $1.5 trillion in spending cuts harvested from the Biden talks. Then it creates a committee of 12 lawmakers charged with sending a deficit-reduction plan to Congress by the end of the year. Whatever they decide on would be protected from the filibuster and immune to amendments.
For Republicans, this plan is something close to the best of all possible worlds (sorry, but I do not consider a world in which “Cut, Cap, and Balance” passes to be a possible one): It’s all spending cuts and no revenues. It’s a little plan that denies the Obama administration the political and substantive benefits of a big plan. It’s a multi-part plan — which is more important than people realize — that forces Democrats to take three hard votes between now and the election, and almost ensures that deficit reduction will be an issue in 2013 and beyond. It’s a plan that smartly pockets more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts Democrats can sort-of accept and only then begins a grand bargain process, ensuring that if there’s a grand bargain later, it will cut far deeper into the bone of Democratic priorities. If it passes, Republicans will have escaped these negotiations without making any significant political or policy concessions.
As for the Democrats? Well, it’s a deal. No particular part of it is so objectionably that Harry Reid couldn’t pass it if he tried. And it raises the debt ceiling. That’s not a particularly rousing argument, but perhaps it will be enough.
I suppose it never even occurred to anyone to simply give us what we want — which is stimulus spending and jobs. Oh well!
UPDATE: Jed Lewison has more:
Not only would they get significant cuts without tax increases, they also get a process that will place the entire political burden for raising the debt limit on President Obama. Moreover, they force him to request three separate debt limit extensions, and would require Democrats to sustain vetoes of Republican rejections of each of those extensions. Because the commission could theoretically suggest revenue increases, Republicans could claim to the chattering classes that they aren’t totally in Grover Norquist’s grip. And to top things off, they would get all this for something that they have already publicly said they want: a higher debt limit.
The only potentially attractive thing* about this is that it would avoid the catastrophe of failing to raise the debt limit, at least for now. But it’s not like they weren’t other ways to achieve that goal. Using the debt limit as a hostage to force sharp spending cuts without raising revenue is exactly what Republicans have been fighting for. And if this is the plan, they may well be close to getting it.
*It should be noted that by this same logic, serving time in prison is a “potentially attractive thing” because you get free food.