BREAKING: McConnell offers Schumer a life preserver on debt limit

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Mitch McConnell may offer Chuck Schumer a face-saving exit from the debt-ceiling crisis, but it’s limited and very, very temporary. McConnell will offer Republican assistance on a short-term debt ceiling increase — but only enough to get to December, and only to allow Schumer plenty of room for a reconciliation effort for a larger debt ceiling hike.

Before McConnell gets to the offer, Cocaine Mitch heaps scorn on Democrats for their self-inflicted crises, natch:

It’s not difficult to calculate the necessary increase to get the Biden administration to December. McConnell might want to leave a little room to get to January, just in case. Besides, why not push this past Christmas and into the mix for the midterms? Leave it to Schumer to expedite reconciliation to avoid that outcome.

Anyway, this is a very good strategic move on McConnell’s part. This offer protects his party from being blamed for a default in the near term, and it protects the GOP’s real goal, which is to block a debt-ceiling suspension instead of a specific dollar-amount raise. That’s why McConnell has been insisting on the use of reconciliation, as that requires a set level for the next debt ceiling. A suspension of the debt ceiling gives Joe Biden a blank check, which makes it policy rather than budgetary.

It’s smart for other reasons, too. McConnell’s pledge to expedite the later reconciliation process removes any blame for a later default as well. Since it’s the first real plan for avoiding either, McConnell can at least back up his claim that Republicans have the only workable plan to avoid it in either case — and if Schumer refuses, then the default would solely be on Democrats’ shoulders. That’s one reason to go first — pre-emption.

Will Schumer go for the deal? So far, not so good:

Clearly they don’t think McConnell has caved. But if Schumer rejects the offer, what comes next? McConnell can try to offer it on the floor, and he might get Joe Manchin and/or Kyrsten Sinema to back the play. That will make Schumer look even weaker than he does now, and if he has to use majority muscle to block McConnell’s offer, then any default after that will really be his responsibility.

Schumer’s smart enough to know that, even if Hirono isn’t. Will his caucus grasp it? Stay tuned.