Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to hike the debt limit has only one thought behind it — fade the political heat. The plan purportedly makes the Democratic president bear the political burden for increases in the debt limit, to the benefit of Republicans. But the plan does nothing for the good of the country.
The McConnell Plan, if enacted, would immediately raise the amount of money the government can borrow by $100 billion above the current debt ceiling of $14.294 trillion. The McConnell Plan would then allow the president to make this year and in the coming year a total of three requests for further increases of $700 billion, then $700 billion more, and finally $900 billion more. Each of those presidential requests would take effect automatically, unless a law is enacted to reject the presidential request. Because President Obama is highly likely to retain the support of at least one-third of one House of Congress (the number of votes it takes to sustain a presidential veto of legislation), the real effect of the McConnell Plan is to raise the debt limit by more than $2 trillion.
The McConnell Plan would put America deeper into debt and achieve nothing toward the vitally important objective of getting federal overspending and overborrowing under control. All the McConnell Plan requires the president to do is submit a list of suggested spending cuts that exceeds the dollar amount of the requested hikes in the debt ceiling. The McConnell Plan does not give those spending cut ideas or any alternative ideas any legal effect or even specify an accelerated procedure for congressional consideration of such ideas — the McConnell Plan just requires the president to submit a piece of paper.
If the outcome of the current presidential-congressional negotiations over how to get spending under control is the McConnell Plan of just letting the president have the freedom to go on borrowing another $2 trillion, then Senator McConnell and every congressional Republican who votes for it will bear as much political responsibility for this action as President Obama and the Democrats.
Senator Jim DeMint was right to describe the McConnell Plan to the newspaper The Hill as “like leaving the jail door open and looking the other way, then saying it’s not our fault.” And Representative Jim Jordan was even more succinct with his view on the McConnell Plan on the website Politico.com: “I’d say, ‘No way.'” Conservatives should follow their lead.
Conservatives in Congress need to focus on what is good for the country. That starts with a clear understanding that this is the moment to put the country on the path toward getting federal overspending and overborrowing under control. The guiding principle is simple: Don’t raise the debt limit without getting spending under control. Use the legislation on the debt limit to put America on the path to driving down federal spending and borrowing, while preserving our ability to protect America, and without raising taxes.
David Addington is The Heritage Foundation’s vice president of domestic and economic policy. Prior to joining The Heritage Foundation, he was then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.