by Jim Nintzel
Sen. Lindsey Graham notes today's New York Times that GOP purists are going to make a deal over the debt ceiling very difficult, especially because of the way the GOP itself has stirred the pot:
“Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.
“How many Republicans have been on TV saying, ‘I am not going to raise the debt limit,’ ” said Mr. Graham, including himself in the mix of those who did so. “We have no one to blame but ourselves.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain, in an interview with the GOP-friendly National Review, notes that the purists are pushing the GOP over the cliff:
Yet as poorly as Obama has handled the negotiations, anger with the president, McCain says, may be clouding the party’s judgment at a time when its political fortunes are improving. “If I were Boehner and Cantor, I’d get one of our highly respected Republican pollsters to come over and brief them,” he says. “Right now, we’re not winning the battle.”
Fifteen years ago, President Clinton blamed Republicans for the 1995 government shutdown and won reelection. In similar fashion, McCain argues that a debt default would give President Obama “total victory” in 2012, “just like it was total victory for Clinton when Dole and Gingrich had to cave in 1995.”
“I appreciate the zeal and fervor of my colleagues; I want us to get an agreement,” McCain says, but with the financial markets uneasy and Obama intent on raising taxes, it is time for Republicans to continue the debate on a fresh front.
“With a huge segment of the media clearly cheering for Obama,” Republicans, McCain says, risk being blamed for any economic tremor, as unfair as that may seem. “Some people say we wouldn’t get the blame — we would get the blame.” After three years of highlighting Obama’s inept economic stewardship, suddenly, he fears, the party would have the finger pointed at them.
“It’s frustrating,” McCain says, shaking his head. “I really hope our Republican base can understand that we have not lost our zeal or dedication to spending cuts, but we are aware of the consequences of not having a Plan B in case all else fails.”
For McCain, the only viable Plan B, at this point, is the McConnell plan, a legislative maneuver that would enable President Obama to raise the debt ceiling via a presidential veto. Noting that the GOP leader’s proposal is “too complicated,” McCain emphasizes that it should be supported, however reluctantly, as the country’s credit rating teeters.
“There are some on the right who are saying this is a sell-out, this is a cop-out; they have been very creative in their descriptions,” McCain says. “This is the last option.” In coming months, he pledges, “we will fight as hard as we can to get our agenda of spending cuts without tax increases.”
I don't know how you don't call the McConnell plan a sell-out of the Tea Party, given how much nonsense McCain and his fellow Republicans let them believe over the last couple of years. The pitchforks-and-torches crowd is going to see the GOP giving up their power to control the purse strings (and allowing the Democrats to keep spending money) as just another Washington trick and a total betrayal of what they believe. Yet the most important thing is how the markets will react the delay in the debt ceiling decision. I don't think that Americans will positively react the ruin of the economy.
"They're all priorities," Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). "As our colleagues here have said, we need to keep our promises and the money is there to do that."
But where will the immediate 44% cut in overall spending needed to avoid default come from instead? Michele Bachmann, who has gone so far as to demand the debt ceiling never be raised, dodged questions on the issue Wednesday by simply repeating her assertion that Social Security and troop pay be left sacrosanct.
Asked by TPM about what areas might need to be cut offset their proposed guarantees, Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) offered a similar response, repeating that Social Security, Medicare, military pay, and veterans' benefits should all be off limits. Pressed to name any savings — furloughing federal employees, shutting down various agencies — that might be preferable, she said her focus was only on calling out Obama's threats.
"We're not targeting any of those things," she said. "We're not scheming on the House side to somehow have a menu of things that are going to happen when the inevitable denouement occurs."
The basic Republican claim that the White House has the ability to neatly prioritize spending is heavily disputed, and not only by the Treasury Department. A recent study by the Bipartisan Policy Commission concluded that "handling all payments for important and popular programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, active duty pay) will quickly become impossible" and the reality would instead be "chaotic."
We're talking about a lot more than foreign aid, NPR and Planned Parenthood here, folks.