It's been a long and lonely day at the theater for Senate Republicans during the great debt drama, with all of the good speaking parts going to the Obama team, Boehner and Cantor, and the occasional presidential aspirant. Striving to share that rarified air, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a new solution for raising the debt limit which straddles the middle ground between Machiavellian and utterly bizarre.
The proposal, which McConnell calls the 'last choice option', is basically a way to allow the the raising of the debt limit that would shield Republican members from Tea Party wrath while also protecting them from banishment by their corporate overlords, and insure an ongoing base-gratifying battle with Obama through the middle of next summer if not beyond.
"Okay, try and follow me," McConnell explained to a largely vacant Senate floor. "We have this imaginary pile of money, two and a half trillion in the case at hand. We separate that money into three imaginary piles - one of $700 billion and two of $900 billion. That's pretty easy to visualize. Our scenario states that the president wants to make this money real by turning it into debt. He'll have to ask us for permission to do this and he'll have to ask us three times. Now, this fall and next summer. But he does ask us nicely so we say, alright Mister President, we'll talk about it. But first you need to bring us a list of $700 to $900 billion dollars in spending cuts."
"Okay. Now, let's hypothesize that we're in a good mood on the day when the president brings us that list of spending offsets, and we decide to consider them. We still don't want to appear to be kowtowing to him, so we just give him a little money, say a 100 billion, and tell him that we'll get back to him in fifteen days. And then all of the Republicans vote down his request. Can't you just imagine the look on his face?"
"Eventually, Wall Street - God love 'em - is going to come along and spoil our fun. They don't want to see the economy bushwhacked and I can kind of understand where they're coming from. But you know what the GOP has to do? Absolutely nothing. You see, we deny his request under a legislative provision known as the joint resolution of disapproval. Don't you just love that name? And it's more like a bill than it is a resolution of anything, which means that Obama can veto it. Then it come back to the House and Senate, where it can't be overridden because of the obstructionist tax and spend Democratic Party. So Obama gets his debt limit increase, Democrats get the blame, and we get to keep our political virginity. And, we can have a good time doing it. I mean, how much fun is it going to be watching this president repeatedly grapple with a joint resolution of disapproval? I believe that the American people find that name inherently funny."
"Now here's the beauty part. That list of spending cuts that we make Obama bring us - we're under no obligation to pass those cuts or even seriously consider them. Particularly not in an election year. What we are free to do, however, is campaign on them. We can be out their saying, Obama tried to cut your Medicare and we stopped it. It'll be hilarious. This is such a great plan - you've got to love it."
"Oh yeah," said a dejected John Boehner, "an absolutely brilliant plan. I mean, why would we want to get something out of these negotiations when we can get nothing? Just a few days ago I was on the verge of a four trillion dollar deal, but then young Eric raises a ruckus about closing tax loopholes and now we're considering a proposal which reads like a bad game show. Brilliant, Mitch, just brilliant."
"I don't think that the Speaker fully understands my plan," replied McConnell. "This strategy isn't about getting something per se, this strategy is about humiliating the president. What he calls nothing smells like victory to me."
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