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Morning Feature: Nutshell – McConnell’s Blink and the Frustrighti’s Fury

July 13, 2011

Morning Feature

Morning Feature: Nutshell – McConnell’s Blink and the Frustrighti’s Fury

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) just blinked, and the Frustrighti are furious. (More)

With no guest writer today, Morning Feature takes a nutshell look at yesterday’s developments in the debt ceiling negotiations.

The Blink

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed a “backup plan” on raising the debt ceiling – Let Democrats Do It. The details are complicated, but here’s the gist:

  • President Obama would notify Congress of his intent to raise the debt ceiling.
  • The House and Senate could object with a “resolution of disapproval.” Such resolutions would almost certainly pass in the GOP-controlled House, and could be passed by a simple majority in the Senate.
  • Even if the Senate also passed the resolution, President Obama could veto it, and Democrats in the House and Senate would sustain the veto.
  • President Obama could then raise the debt ceiling, and propose matching spending cuts for approval by Congress.

Minority Leader McConnell said this would put the burden on President Obama to propose specific spending cuts. Anti-tax agitator Grover Norquist seemed to support the proposal in an interview with the National Review Online, then backtracked later in a post at the Americans for Tax Reform website, saying he supports “forcing the President to put his spending cut plan in writing.”

Translation: Republicans want spending cuts, but can also read polls and want Democrats to take the political fallout. In McConnell’s speech on the Senate floor, he admitted that his primary goal is the 2012 presidential election:

But after years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this President is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable.

So when it comes to spending cuts: Let Democrats Do It.

Republicans are divided on the proposal. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called it “good work.” Senator Ron Paul (R-TX) rejected it, saying “Congress should assume responsibility for itself.”

The Fury

The Frustrighti are not divided. They see the proposal as giving President Obama carte blanche to raise the debt ceiling with support from House and Senate Democrats alone, with any proposed spending cuts not likely to be enacted.

Michelle Malkin called it “Another mortifying McConnell head-banging-against-the-wall moment.” RedState’s Erick Erickson initially called for burning Minority Leader McConnell in effigy, then dialed his title back to “Mitch McConnell Just Proposed ‘The Pontius Pilate Pass the Buck Act of 2011.'”

Heritage Foundation PAC CEO Michael Needham said “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,” prompting this reader comment:

This is an excellent example of :
1) why I will no longer contribute to the RNC as of today
2) why am registering as an independent after 47 years as a registered Republican as of this week
3) Republican negotiating skills … the 1st was the actual $523M budget cut (down sharply from the promised $100B)

[…] This may seem harsh but the Repubs seem to have no strategy to prevail, no communications plan, no fallback position and no political will … instead, it seems, they’ve worked overtime to co-op the new members.

[…] Finally, the Repub cry is “we only have a third of the power, e.g., we’re ‘helpless.'” I wonder how the Dems would fare if the roles were reversed?

That sounds very familiar….


Happy Wednesday!

  • addisnana

    The thing that occurs to me is the McConnell didn’t come up with this in a vacuum. Some other Republican leaders must have had a clue that he was going to do this. The polling on killing medicare (Ryan GOP budget) and protecting the perks of the wealthy must have played a role in this.

    Is this ‘good news’ for John McCain?

    • NCrissieB

      Republicans hoped President Obama would assert the Fourteenth Amendment Strategy, as that would have been a three-way win for them: (1) they could refuse to raise the debt ceiling and appeal to their Tea Party base; (2) the debt ceiling would be raised anyway, so they wouldn’t offend their Wall Street base; and, (3) they could accuse President Obama of executive overreach and even propose impeachment. Last week President Obama signaled he wouldn’t give them that bail-out position. So Minority Leader McConnell essentially proposed authorizing it by statute.

      The GOP have painted themselves into a corner, and they know it. If they accept a deal that includes tax increases, they get a hit from both their Tea Party and Wall Street bases. If they accept no deal, the debt default would anger Wall Street. They want huge spending cuts … but they don’t want the political fallout from those unpopular cuts.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • JanF

    I am highly amused by this and thank you for the new term Frustrighti!

    That reader’s comment could have come from Firedoglake. Although, don’t you think that the 10th time the same reader posts “I am no longer a Democrat” it tends to lose it’s efficacy?

    • NCrissieB

      I hoped you’d like the new term Frustrighti. And it’s good to know they have one. Michelle Malkin even called Republicans “the Stupid Party.” 😀

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • LI Mike

    The right is upset. Poor things.

    Must be tough to have the tea party pulling you this way and Wall St pulling you that way. Ouch, watch my arm sockets would you!

    • NCrissieB

      Add a third group pulling, Mike: Fred. Polls show Americans do not want benefit cuts for Social Security, Medicare, and other basic social safety net programs. Instead, Americans want tax increases for the wealthy. That left the GOP nowhere to go, so Minority Leader McConnell blinked.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • winterbanyan

    I am so glad to see this, especially in light of Obama’s reminder of who won’t be getting their checks on August 3rd if this intransigence continues from the GOP.

    He won’t give them SS and Medicare. He offered 4 trillion in cuts, and even some efficiency “cuts” to Medicare, and they turned down 4 trillion in cuts, in favor of 2 trillion plus cuts to entitlement benefits.

    And now that we’re down to the wire, he’s going public. I was sure went Nancy Pelosi marched forth from the White House to go back to the Democratic Caucus and tell them to get together that it was part of an overall plan. And I was hoping like hell that Obama would make the stakes clear before it was too late.

    Now the Republicans are hoist on their own petard. Who thinks they are willing to prevent those checks from going out on August 3?

    • NCrissieB

      President Obama going public was a key part of this, winterbanyan. He laid out the consequences in plain terms, and called out the media and pollsters for treating this as a political fight instead of a policy debate. With the narrative moving to policy, the GOP have no solution. They can’t accept tax increases, can’t allow a default, and can’t afford the political fallout of gutting popular social safety programs.

      So … Let Democrats Do It … which is tantamount to Republicans admitting they are not competent to govern.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      • winterbanyan

        As I was hoping, Obama let the GOP walk into a corner of their own making. He’s done this before. He gives them all the rope they want, lets them be as outrageous as they want, and then he tightens the noose. Publicly.

        I guess we still aren’t used to his style. We’re not used to a President who can let all those attacks and untruths roll of his back until the right moment arrives to step out and counter it. We think he should be fighting all along. Well, he is. He’s letting them lay their own trap.

        • NCrissieB

          President Obama was very considerate. He provided Republicans a barrel of paint, a spray gun, a roller, and even a little edger thingie (neatness counts). All they had to do was pick a corner into which to paint themselves. 😉

          Good morning! ::hugggggs::

          • winterbanyan

            LOL. Glad I wasn’t drinking when I read this.

        • glendaw271

          Not only does he let the attacks and untruths roll off his back, but he has the ability to ignore the mutterings of the frustrati and the talking heads who are telling him that he is not doing it right.

          For me, the most annoying part of the last week was listening and reading all the people who were second guessing his actions. If he had allowed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, I would have joined them in their condemnations. I’m glad that I don’t have to do so now.

          • NCrissieB

            The day-to-day news cycles can be very frustrating, Glenda. We’ll talk about that more later this week. This has been another excellent case of John Godfrey Saxe’s maxim:

            Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.

            Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      • JanF

        He laid out the consequences in plain terms, and called out the media and pollsters for treating this as a political fight instead of a policy debate.

        I also think that the press conference format rather than the “Big Speech” format worked well towards this strategy. It allowed him to do a back and forth on the questions. It also put him in the news cycle, setting up the CBS News interview, instead of just pre-empting people’s favorite shows.

        This is a great sticky comment:

        Let Democrats Do It … which is tantamount to Republicans admitting they are not competent to govern

        • NCrissieB

          I agree the press conference was a better choice, Jan. The media can and often do ignore President Obama’s speeches, unless he gives a prime time address. (Then they complain that he gives too many speeches.) It’s harder to ignore a press conference when your reporter was there asking questions.

          And I hope we can make that comment sticky. :smile:

          Good morning! ::hugggggs::

        • winterbanyan

          I, too, agree the press conference was a better format for doing this. Obama always displays a clear grasp of the issues in this setting, and he can take on the chattering class at the same time. It did indeed guarantee him a spot in the news cycle, whereas the prime time speech might simply have annoyed people.

          He’s got a lot more political acumen than most people credit him with.

  • Winning Progressive

    Thanks for this great overview of the developments on the debt ceiling negotiations, and for the term Frustrighti.

    The NYT has a good editorial about how cynical McConnell’s proposal is. I think it is just par for the course for today’s GOP, as I explained in my comment on that editorial. I’d be curious what others think:

    This is yet another glaring example of how today’s GOP is not serious about governing or about reducing the deficit. Instead, the Republicans are again trying to force the Democrats to make the difficult and politically challenging choices necessary to clean up the GOP’s mess.

    This first happened in the 1980s – 1990s. President Reagan and Bush ran up large deficits as they cut taxes for the wealthy and increased military spending. It was up to President Clinton to clean up that mess, which he did. In fact, when Clinton left office, our nation was running a surplus.

    Then W. Bush came into power and immediately ran up the nation’s credit card by launching unnecessary wars, cutting taxes for the wealthy, and creating an unpaid for Medicare prescription drug benefit that prohibited Medicare from negotiating lower prices. At the same time, conservative deregulatory zealotry allowed the Wall Street meltdown and real market crash to occur, thereby tanking our economy.

    When President Obama took office, he not only had to clean up the GOP’s mess, but he had to do so while the GOP engaged in historically unprecedented obstructionism of such clean up. The GOP went so far as to filibuster non-controversial appointees and filibuster legislation that they had supported before Obama was President. The GOP clearly had no intention of helping to clean up their economic mess.

    Now, the GOP is conceding that it has no interest in addressing the fiscal mess that they created. Instead, they just want to be able to score political points against Obama by forcing him to make the hard choices regarding revenue increases, spending cuts, and debt ceiling increases.

    If the GOP is uninterested in doing the hard work needed to govern, we the voters should relieve them of that burden in 2012.

    • JanF

      Excellent reply to the editorial.

      Democrats are always cleaning up messes for Republicans. We’ve had to do it in Wisconsin (where I live) and it led to single term Democratic governors or Democratic governors who were indistinguishable from Republicans.

      Let’s make this a rallying cry:

      If the GOP is uninterested in doing the hard work needed to govern, we the voters should relieve them of that burden in 2012.

    • NCrissieB

      Excellent reply to the NYT editorial, Winning Progressive. This is the kernel issue:

      Now, the GOP is conceding that it has no interest in addressing the fiscal mess that they created. Instead, they just want to be able to score political points against Obama by forcing him to make the hard choices regarding revenue increases, spending cuts, and debt ceiling increases.

      If the GOP is uninterested in doing the hard work needed to govern, we the voters should relieve them of that burden in 2012.

      Since the 1980s, the GOP strategy has been to cut taxes under Republican presidents, then demand spending cuts under Democratic presidents. Tax cuts are popular. Spending cuts are not. That formula not only fits the GOP ideology, but also gives a nice political edge.

      President Obama called their bluff, proposing $3 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in revenue increases. If they were serious about the debt, they’d have taken the deal. They aren’t, and didn’t.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    • JanF

      One more thing. This paragraph from the New York Times editorial needs to be copied and pasted everywhere:

      Republicans always planned to “blame” Mr. Obama for the debt ceiling increase, even if there was a deal. The House speaker, John Boehner, said Tuesday that the debt ceiling was the president’s problem, as if Mr. Obama alone had cut taxes, started wars, expanded Medicare and bailed out Wall Street. Republicans are no less complicit in running up the nation’s borrowing; they simply do not want to pay the bills now that they have come due.

  • JanF

    The Wall Street Journal wants the Frustrighti to stop complaining:

    The hotter precincts of the blogosphere were calling this a sellout yesterday, though they might want to think before they shout. The debt ceiling is going to be increased one way or another, and the only question has been what if anything Republicans could get in return. If Mr. Obama insists on a tax increase, and Republicans won’t vote for one, then what’s the alternative to Mr. McConnell’s maneuver?

    Of course the WSJ has to show how reality challenged they are:

    Even if Mr. Obama gets his debt-limit increase without any spending cuts, he will pay a price for the privilege. He’ll have reinforced his well-earned reputation as a spender with no modern peer. He’ll own the record deficits and fast-rising debt. And he’ll own the U.S. credit-rating downgrade to AA if Standard & Poor’s so decides.

    Whose debt and deficits? Why, that would be George W. Bush’s debt and deficits.

    Bush Debt

    • NCrissieB

      Republicans keep hoping Fred will believe our debt problem began in 2009. Polls show that to be a faint hope.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::