Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has proposed another Washington bailout — the parachute kind, that is. Concerned that lawmakers won't reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling in time to avert a default, he suggested that Congress eject itself from the debate and give President Obama the power to raise the limit on borrowing unilaterally. It's terrible policy, but letting a dysfunctional Congress undermine the federal government's credit would be worse.
Congress capped the government's borrowing at $14.3 trillion last year, but since then has approved tax cuts and spending bills that sink Washington considerably further into debt. In fact, the House approved a Republican-penned budget for the coming fiscal year that would push the debt to $23 trillion by 2021. Nevertheless, Republicans have refused to approve any increase in the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to deep spending cuts. Although Democrats say they're willing to do so, the two sides haven't been able to agree on the details. Democrats have also insisted that Congress eliminate some tax breaks as it trims programs, but Republicans have balked.
McConnell's new proposal, which he unveiled with other Senate GOP leaders Tuesday, would end the impasse by relieving Republicans of any responsibility for raising the debt ceiling. Obama could raise the limit in three increments, and each time Republicans could respond with a resolution rejecting the increase, secure in the knowledge that Obama would veto it and that a core group of Democrats would sustain the veto to protect the government's credit rating.