It was a floor speech to be quoted and re-quoted. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this morning spoke movingly about Republicans’ commitment “to choose a path that actually reflects the will of the people” when it comes to an agreement about a debt limit increase (or lack thereof).
That path, he said, will include the responsible fulfillment of obligations on the debt — but it will also entail an ongoing commitment to pressure the administration to “rein in Washington — not to freeze it into place.”
If McConnell meant everything he said, it’s good news for the significant majority of Americans who oppose raising the debt ceiling because it implies Republicans will at least not go along with an increase unless Democrats offer something more than the shenanigan of future spending cuts that could easily be reversed by future Congresses.
McConnell was clearly proud of the conviction Republicans have demonstrated in deficit-reduction negotiations so far, but he didn’t sound the least bit optimistic about the possibility of a real agreement with the administration and congressional Democrats.
“[A]fter 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,” McConnell said. “I was one of those who had hoped we could do something big for the country. But in my view the president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes or default. Republicans choose none of the above. I hoped to do good — but I refuse to do harm.”
More highlights from the speech:
At a moment when we needed leadership the most, we got the least. The financial security of the nation was being gambled on the President’s wager that he could convince people our problems would be solved if we just all agreed to take it out on the guy in the fancy house down the street. In my view, that was the saddest commentary on the status of the leadership at the White House.
And I’m proud of the fact that Republicans refused to play along. We stood our ground. We know that what Americans need right now is for government to make job creation easier, not harder. And we said so. At a time when 14 million Americans are looking for work, we refused to support a tax hike. We supported jobs and economic growth instead. …
Republicans have told the President we’re not interested in business as usual in Washington. We mean it. We will not be party to something that claims to save trillions but leaves it to future generations to pick up the tab, and to future Congresses to reverse it with a simple vote. We will not pretend that a bad deal is a good one.
That’s highly encouraging, as McConnell will be among the leaders who continue negotiations at the White House today, even as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner clamors ever-more-loudly for a deal and Obama presses whatever edge he’s got. McConnell and the other Republican leaders will need every ounce of the steely resolve McConnell expressed this morning — as well as consistent confirmation of the support of the American people — to continue to stand firm in the face of Democrat demands.