Rand Paul: Let's face it, the House GOP's new debt-ceiling plan is a retreat

He’s almost all alone among prominent Republicans in opposing the plan for a short-term hike, but I’m sure that’s just how he likes it. He’s building a brand for 2016 and the core of it is being the most uncompromising fiscal conservative in the field. No one’s going to get to his right on that, although Rubio’s going to stay as close as he can.

In remarks to the Charleston Meeting, a gathering of conservative leaders in the first-in-the-South presidential primary state, Paul rebuked the House for its plans to delay the debt limit fight by a few months. Republicans intend to vote this week on raising the country’s statutory debt limit to delay a spending standoff with the White House by about three months.

“I saw the speaker on TV handing the newly sworn-in president a flag. I am afraid it was the white flag of surrender,” the Kentucky Republican said, according to a GOP source present at the meeting.

Alluding to the House GOP’s gathering last week in Williamsburg, Va., Paul jabbed: “They came out of their retreat and retreated.”

Paul’s plan? Don’t give in on the debt ceiling but do pass a prioritization bill directing Obama and Geithner to pay America’s debt-related expenses first once the ceiling is hit. That would eliminate the risk of default while forcing a massive immediate slashing of other government spending, with legal and political chaos potentially to ensue. If you think the GOP’s well positioned to win a battle of public opinion if/when that happens, then you should be all for it. If you don’t — and remember, this electorate just reelected Barack “What Debt?” Obama — then maybe you shouldn’t be.

Paul Ryan, whose House leadership position leaves him with much less room to be uncompromising, isn’t:

House insiders say Ryan’s efforts are moving several undecided members to support the idea, which was initially met with some skepticism from the right because it doesn’t include spending cuts.

But Ryan’s case, members say, is pretty simple. He wants Republicans to shape the fiscal debate this year, and do it unencumbered by the threat of government default. As he sees it, the more unity on where the party is picking its battles, the better.

According to sources, Ryan explained the benefits of short-term extension at the recent GOP retreat and at a Republican Study Committee luncheon on Tuesday.

The Club for Growth is also all aboard on a short-term debt-ceiling hike aimed at maximizing the party’s leverage even though they adamantly opposed Boehner’s plan for a $1 trillion hike in return for $1.2 trillion in cuts two years ago. So are Raul Labrador, Darrell Issa, and — maybe — Dave Schweikert. (A key sweetener to gain conservative votes, apparently, is a promise from leadership to pass a budget that will balance within 10 years.) Most surprisingly to me, Democrats appear ready to support the short-term hike too. The White House has said Obama will sign it, Reid hinted that he’s okay with it, even Steny Hoyer, while dismissing the bill as a gimmick, wouldn’t rule out voting for it. You would think Democrats might line up against it just to make life difficult (again) for the GOP: With no Dem votes to count on, Boehner would face another white-knuckle vote a la “Plan B” in which a leadership gambit designed to increase the party’s leverage against Obama depends upon conservatives in the caucus not defecting. It looked like Pelosi was thinking that way too early on, but now that Obama’s shrugged at the bill, she probably can’t hold her caucus together in opposing it. Did O decide that the politics of opposing a short-term hike on grounds that it’s not the long-term hike that Democrats demand are simply too dicey? Or is there something else I’m missing?