Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fun with the McConnell Plan

Over at Greg's place, I have a post up suggesting that the Republicans might try passing McConnell (or, perhaps, just a clean debt limit increase) with only Democratic votes -- by having dozens of House Republicans vote "present." Blogging is funny sometimes...I wrote the item about a clean debt limit yesterday, before McConnell's idea was out, and wound up holding onto it for a while; anyway, between when I finally sent it along today and when it got posted, I found out that Bill Kristol, of all people, is pondering the very same thing that I'm pondering. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to which one of us is Pinky, and which is The Brain.

(Gee, Bill, what do you want to do tonight?)


(Oh. I guess that settles that. Oh well).

At any rate...where was I...oh, yes, Stan Collender. He had a solid post pointing out one of the many technical difficulties in getting McConnell's plan to work as advertised:
McConnell is hanging his political hat on the fact that his proposal would require that the president send Congress a list of spending cuts equal to the increase in the government's borrowing authority he's requesting. The presumption, of course, is that the president will take significant political heat for specific proposals. But this is easy to get around. What happens if, instead of sending Congress a specific list of proposed cuts, the White House simply sends a list of every program in the budget and says that the savings could come from any combination it -- that is, Congress -- chooses?
Not bad, but not nearly the best that could be done. After all, McConnell can, perhaps, legislate that the president must submit a list of cuts -- but he can't force Obama to support those cuts. What I'd advise the president to do, in the unlikely event the thing becomes law, is to submit and condemn an appropriate-sized list of cuts found in the House-passed (and GOP Senator supported) Ryan budget. The most egregious ones, natch.

Mind you, I'm not opposed at all to McConnell's plan, and as I said earlier today I think he's basically acting responsibly here. As a model of sound construction, however, I do think his plan could use a little work.


  1. I think there is a decent argument under the Recommendations Clause of Article II, Section 3 that any attempt by Congress to dictate to the President that he make budget recommendations of a specific nature (e.g., all spending cuts) is unconstitutional. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a signing statement to that effect in the event that McConnell's legislation reaches Obama's desk.

  2. For cutting I'd suggest county by county defense cuts, that could get interesting, good bye aerospace money going to Texas. Also every federal dollar to the entire state of Wyoming. Obama: "What are you going to do cowboy state? Vote for Romney? Go ahead, waste your vote. Thanks to the electoral college you can't do anything! HAHAHA" Although this would be petty and stupid and not a winning communications strategy, kinda like not wanting to raise the debt ceiling has turned out to be, right?

    If Obama really wanted to get mean he could suggest cutting Dubbya's pension.

  3. Personally, I think the thing to do is submit two plans--one just unpopular spending cuts, as required, the other a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes paying the same amount.

    But I don't think any of these schemes matter much. Republicans just say "Obama is playing political games instead of being serious about cutting spending" and let the Democrats take the heat for raising the debt ceiling. Both sides have an opportunity to put their spin on this, but the Republicans have a far simpler spin-job ("Democrats raised the debt ceiling yet again!"), and I'm not sure how you would construct a deal that wouldn't allow any Democratic spin whatsoever. ("Three times a year, Obama must stand before a joint session and announce 'I am a doofus.' Both parties must stand and applaud for 30 seconds.")

  4. I really fail to see how the McConnell plan really embarrasses President Obama and the Democrats in a meaningful way. Are any of the Republicans catching flak for voting to raise the debt ceiling all those times in the past? Voters might say they're upset about it but it's an issue that is really complex and something that I don't think is going to generate a ton of opposition beyond talking points.

    As an aside, couldn't President Obama use this as an opportunity to eliminate tax credits he doesn't care for? I'm not sure how the spending cut provision of the McConnell plan is exactly laid out, but it seems entirely feasible to me that this could be used to no longer pay back economically inefficient tax cuts.


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