Laura Ingraham grills Mitch McConnell on his Plan Z option, floated yesterday as a last-ditch approach to the debt ceiling issue, and McConnell argues the benefits of the plan as a defense of Republicans against getting saddled with blame for economic damage done during a potential default. Ingraham asks McConnell whether he’s positioning as a “realist,” and McConnell says that reality will be that Obama won’t compromise in this process. If not, and Republicans don’t blink, Obama will have the upper hand:
Ingraham: When I see the New York Times on the other hand, praising the deal, Harry Reid seeming to be open to it, and even the White House murmurs that it might be something acceptable. I get a little nervous. Why do you think they are embracing it?
McConnell: Because they want to raise the debt ceiling and of course we know that is going to happen. Just like we knew shutting down the government in 1995 was not going to work for us, it helped Bill Clinton get reelected. I refuse to help Barack Obama get reelected.
McConnell also notes that Republicans only control one-third of the government. No matter what gets passed in the House, unless it has support in a deal made with the White House, it won’t have a prayer in the Senate. All Republicans in the upper chamber can do is block legislation in the Senate, not carry legislation, even if they can somehow force it to the floor. Getting a deal means having to force Obama to agree on terms, and McConnell thinks Obama won’t do that because of the political gains he sees from forcing Republicans to take the blame for economic turmoil if no agreement is reached:
Ingraham: While it puts the burden, it shifts the burden to the greatest extent to Obama, in effect there is kind of a vote at the beginning to raise the debt ceiling because you are ceding —
McConnell: No, no. It only authorizes the president to ask for it. There will be no vote to raise the debt ceiling I suspect by any Republican.
Ingraham: Isn’t that passing the buck, Senator? Isn’t that passing the buck of leadership to the White House?
McConnell: We’ve been trying to get this liberal president to sign a deal worth signing. You know it makes a difference when you only control a third of the government. If we were able to run the government out of the House of Representatives we would be able to get a result that we would like.
McConnell says he still wants a comprehensive deal, and this is a contingency if Obama won’t negotiate in good faith. Jen Rubin reported that this idea gives John Boehner some good-cop/bad-cop leverage that might get Obama to start seriously negotiating on an actual moderate-scale deal:
A Republican source familiar with the speaker’s thinking and the debt talk told me last night that discussions are still ongoing on a possible bipartisan deal. The source explained that, at the Tuesday afternoon White House meeting, “the speaker urged the president to show leadership and again asked that he present a score-able plan of his own that could pass the Congress. He reminded the president that Republicans asked the White House for such a proposal more than two months ago and have still not seen one. The speaker also urged the president and Democratic leaders to work with Republicans to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as a way to reinforce the restraints on future spending that will have to be in any agreement that passes Congress.”
Republican leaders, perhaps emboldened by ample polling showing the public opposes a hike in the debt ceiling, are doing all they can (given that they control only the House) to turn up the heat on the president. …
Boehner and McConnell are cooperating on a pincer movement — stand firm in the bipartisan negotiations and threaten to force Obama come up with the cuts himself, in the event he won’t drop his demands for huge tax hikes and/or come up with meaningful immediate cuts.
Is there risk in that approach? Of course, but as Tina wrote earlier, there may be much more risk in refusing to build such a contingency:
But then the question becomes, could Republicans have depended on the electorate in that way? Maybe not. Perhaps my faith in the American people is also reflective of “tea party/talk radio … unrealistic expectations.” Maybe politicians like McConnell have learned to hedge their bets with political tricks because experience has taught them the voting public is fickle. Maybe the mistrust rightly goes both ways: The electorate can’t trust politicians to be principled, politicians can’t trust the electorate to reward principled decision-making … Cynicism setting in.
I’d say that after the 1995 standoff, McConnell might be justified in having those worries.
Speaking of Ingraham, don’t forget she has a new book out, which is on my desk now: