Mitch throws Obama a curve. Will he swing at it? [The Arena]

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Kentucky’s senior senator, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell held a news conference at the Capitol yesterday, in which he described his new proposal to allow the debt ceiling to be raised in three separate stages through the end of next year, for a total of $2.5 trillion. The plan would place the political burden of raising the debt limit on President Obama and congressional Democrats, rather than on Republicans.

Cleverly, this will have the effect of forcing the president to propose raising the debt ceiling, and will thereby stick him with the blame.  No sane economist—or congressman, for that matter—seriously doubts that the debt limit needs to be raised.  And all will candidly admit that the nation is ultimately headed toward economic catastrophe, if the national debt is not eventually reduced. 

The real difference of opinion in Washington is the over the proper method to achieve national fiscal sanity:  The Democrats want to raise taxes to reduce the deficit, and the Republicans want to cut spending to reach that goal. 

McConnell Describes Plan to Give Obama Debt Limit Authority:

And the hardheaded political stand-off has generated a plethora of silly pontifications and hollow threats.  In a televised interview earlier this week, President Obama unconscionably intimated that the $80 billion in Social Security checks due to be sent out by the third of August may be in danger.  This was pure political theater.  (Cut to the video of Granny being pushed off the cliff in her wheelchair by the heartless Republicans.)

All the while, Senator McConnell continues to excoriate President Obama; announcing yesterday, “…my conclusion that, despite his repeated claims to the contrary, the President has no real intention of cutting spending or dealing with our deficits and debt.”  He followed up by describing the current impasse thusly:  “In the end, the White House gave us three choices in exchange for a vote to increase the debt limit:  A massive tax hike, smoke and mirrors, or default. And none of these options is acceptable.”

But McConnell introduced a novel new curve-ball into the game yesterday:  “If the White House continues to insist on either tax hikes or default, then we’d send legislation to the President that requires him to propose spending cuts greater than the debt limit increase he requests. Make the President show in black and white the specific cuts he claims to support. If he refuses, he’ll have to raise the debt limit on his own.”

No word yet on whether or not President Obama will take a swing at Mitch’s pitch, but  the proposal has received a warm reception from Democratic leaders. Sources familiar with the discussions at the White House Tuesday afternoon said that Nancy Pelosi offered McConnell “congratulations.”

And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday praised McConnell for putting forth a plan to raise the debt ceiling, calling it a “serious proposal” that he’s continuing to study:  “He spent a great deal of time working on this. I commend him for his thoughtful and unique proposal, something that we have to look at very closely.  I’m heartened by what I read. This is a serious proposal, and I commend the Republican leader for coming forward with it.”

McConnell On Debt Crisis: Where In The World Has President Obama Been?

Folks who are paying attention to this pissing contest are fast reaching the conclusion that there is little integrity to be found on either side.  Last week’s Gallup Poll indicates that—despite agreement among leaders of both sides of the political aisle in Washington that raising the U.S. debt ceiling is necessary—more Americans want their member of Congress to vote against such a bill than for it, 42% vs. 22%, while one-third are unsure.

Predictably, conservative Republicans will hoot and holler that ol’ Mitch has sold them out to the leftists and Socialists running and ruining the country.  This will energize the Democrats, who naturally want all of this debt crisis talk to fade away before the 2012 elections.  In the end, the Republicans will “grudgingly” vote in favor of the McConnell plan; along with a majority of the Democrats.  Obama will then fall right into McConnell’s little trap, and the dismal economy will become the definitive albatross hanging around the necks of the Democrats during the 2012 elections. 

In any pro/am game, the smart money’s on the pro.  And Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell is nothing, if not a consummate pro.

Read more:  Even Keith Rouda likes the McConnell plan

About Thomas McAdam
At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.
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