Debt limit negotiations took a surprising turn Tuesday, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a backup plan that essentially gives President Barack Obama the authority to unilaterally raise the debt limit.
The move prompted a swift and furious backlash from conservative groups, politicians and commentators.
ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell released a scathing statement, accusing McConnell of writing the president a “blank check” to continue the government’s spending binge.
“If Mitch McConnell thinks caving to President Obama and allowing him to raise the debt ceiling without cuts is the way to become Senate Majority Leader, he is sorely mistaken,” said Bozell. “It’s these sort of shenanigans that got Republicans thrown out of power in 2006.”
Peggy Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, also blasted McConnell’s proposal.
“It is nearly unbelievable that the Senate Minority Leader would suggest a deal that would give the President power to raise the debt ceiling without any kind of significant opposition,” said Nance. “What kind of deal is one that further drives our nation into spending oblivion, putting the country at significant risk of a permanent recession?” (Dems: We couldn’t attack Republicans if we agree to Medicare cuts)
And James Valvo, director of government affairs at Americans for Prosperity, said his group is “opposed to any deal that abdicates Congress’s constitutional responsibility to authorize any debt it wants the country to issue. Reversing the incentives in order to shield senators and representatives from politically tough decisions is a non-starter.”
Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich even took to Twitter to voice his disapproval, saying, “McConnell’s plan is an irresponsible surrender to big government, big deficits and continued overspending. I oppose it.”
For his part, McConnell defended his unusual move by saying that he has essentially become convinced that an acceptable deal on spending cuts and revenue raises cannot be reached, and that Republicans and Democrats have come to an impasse.
McConnell does have at east one supporter: Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform.
“Obama is playing politics,” Norquist said in an interview with the National Review. “Republicans need to force him to do what the established press is not doing. He says he’s got a serious proposal. Could we see it written down please?”
“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 added. “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.”
But on Capitol Hill, McConnell’s plan sent shockwaves through conservative offices. One senior GOP staffer told The Daily Caller in an email, “I really could not have imagined a plan this bad.”
“It is not leadership,” the aide said. (Balanced budget amendment headed to House floor next Wednesday)
The source also said that among the “conservative staff level,” the response was “all-out rebellion … This was an opportunity to make a difference, not take a dive.”
When asked by reporters Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would consider the proposal, though he had not had time to review the particulars.
McConnell’s plan essentially would allow President Obama to demand increases in the Treasury’s borrowing authority of up to $2.4 trillion in three submissions. The president’s increases would automatically take effect unless Congress to action to block the increase.
The proposal from the minority leader came after negotiations appeared to continue to be at a standstill, with both parties disagreeing over the size of a debt reduction package, and the amount of revenue raisers combined with spending cuts.
UPDATE: Grover Norquist clarified his position on McConnell’s proposal Tuesday night, insisting that he did not, in fact, endorse the plan. Norquist maintains that he supports forcing the president to put a plan in writing, but does not endorse “any particular debt limit contingency plan.”