Before heading to the White House for a new round of debt ceiling talks on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) briefed reporters on his “contingency plan” in the Capitol.
The Republican leader reiterated that the proposal was merely a “backup plan” and “last-choice option” designed to “reassure the markets that default is not an option.” It will also, McConnell suggested, render moot President Obama’s faux lament, in an interview with CBS News on Tuesday, that he “can’t guarantee” that Social Security benefits will be paid if Congress doesn’t reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling by early August.
A visibly frustrated McConnell said he hoped a significant agreement was still possible, but noted that the decision to introduce this measure was the result of growing concern about the president’s seriousness regarding the negotiations. “I had hoped all year long that the opportunity presented by [Obama’s] request of us to raise the debt ceiling would generate a bipartisan agreement that would begin to get our house in order by reducing spending,” he said with an exasperated laugh. “That may still happen . . . But we’re certainly not going to send a signal to the markets and the American people that default is an option.”
The plan essentially places the entire impetus for raising the debt ceiling on President Obama and congressional Democrats. As House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said earlier today: “This debt limit increase is his problem, and I think it’s time for him to lead by putting his plan on the table, something that the Congress can pass.”
McConnell’s plan, in part, would require President Obama to recommend detailed spending cuts of equal of greater value to the amount of debt increase being requested. This comes in response to GOP critics who accuse the White House of not having a plan of its own to reduce the deficit (beyond raising taxes).
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), who has been involved in the debt negotiation since before President Obama got involved, said he was initially “quite hopeful” that a deal could be reached, but when Republicans realized that Democrats would insist on major tax increases in return for any modest changes to entitlement programs, it became clear that a contingency option was necessary.