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Conservative reviews mixed on McConnell debt-limit plan

July 12, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Andrew Harrar/Bloomberg )

It didn't take long for conservatives invested in the debt-limit debate to take sides over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's radical escape plan to resolve the burgeoning crisis.

As both sides grew pessimistic Tuesday about the prospects for a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling, McConnell offered up a complicated legislative scheme that would allow the limit to be raised in three stages while affording the GOP a chance to vote against any increase without consequences.

The downside for Republicans: The limit would likely be raised without corresponding spending cuts.

That riled Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator for CNN, who likened McConnell to Pontius Pilate on his RedState blog and also labeled him a "weasel" for good measure. (He also initially suggested hanging the GOP leader in effigy but later tempered his remarks.)

"Mitch McConnell is right now talking about making a historic capitulation. So fearful of being blamed for a default, McConnell is proposing a compromise that lets Barack Obama raise the debt ceiling without making any spending cuts at all," Erickson wrote.

"The debt ceiling has gone up to $14 trillion without Congress ever having to make a tough choice about debt," he complains. "And now Mitch McConnell wants to make it even easier by allowing Congress to go through a dog and pony show of feigned cuts that never get cut while allowing escalation of our national debt. So much for accusing Barack Obama of smoke and mirrors."

Conversely, the Washington anti-tax guru Grover Norquist, who has scorned any suggestion that the GOP compromise on eliminating tax loopholes in order for the government to raise additional revenue, told National Review Online that he's in favor of the McConnell plan.

Norquist, certainly more of an establishment figure than Erickson, said there's no prospect of a meaningful deal on the debt limit with the Obama White House--and that any deal that does arise out of deadline pressure likely won't make conservatives happy.

“Obama wants to claim to the American people that he’s seriously willing to reduce spending and he’s not seriously taxing everybody and his brother,” Norquist said. “He’s lying. It’s time to end this fiction that he’s negotiating in good faith. They’ve got to force him to put in writing what the hell he thinks he’s doing.”

McConnell's plan, if passed, would create a legislative mechanism in which Obama would be required to request an increase in the debt ceiling in three stages, with the biggest increase scheduled for next summer, in the heat of the presidential campaign. Republicans and Democrats alike could then vote to oppose the request. If that "measure of disapproval" passes Congress, then Obama could veto it and the request would essentially be approved. Only a two-thirds majority in Congress could override the veto.

The plan forces Democrats to take a political hit for raising the debt ceiling and allows the GOP to vote against it without risk of default. Some critics however say it's an abdication of congressional responsibility while some conservatives such as Erickson don't see the logic in walking away from a possible deal that could produce spending cuts in the trillions.

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