The current fall back plan from Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell would allow the debt ceiling to be raised without a bipartisan deal on deficit reduction, while shifting the responsibility for the unpopular task of raising the debt ceiling onto President Obama. It would mean no new spending cuts and no new tax increases.
If you falsely believe the top goals of Congressional Republicans are to reduce the deficit or cut government spending then resolving this debt ceiling stand off by adopting McConnell’s fall back would represent a real missed opportunity and defeat for Republicans. On the other hand if you take the Republicans at their word this isn’t a terrible outcome for them.
Republicans have made clear time and time again that sticking to their no new taxes pledge is their top policy goal. Going with McConnell’s plan means Republicans don’t need to agree to new taxes.
More importantly, McConnell has stated his top priority isn’t to reduce the deficit, it is to make Obama a one term president. From that political perspective McConnell has already won a several big political prizes from this debt ceiling negotiation, so can bring the process to an end.
This debt ceiling stand off got President Obama to publicly admit he has been pushing for cutting Social Security benefits and got the fact widely reported that he would support raising the Medicare retirement age. Republicans got Obama to go on record supporting these very unpopular cut without the GOP also needing to agree to them. I imagine the Republicans are already working “Obama support for cutting Social Security” into some really good 30 second campaign ads.
In addition Obama has made much of his brand about being able to pull Washington together in a post partisan way to get big things done. McConnell rejecting the grand bargain hurts this image.
If the only thing McConnell wins from the stand off after “folding” on a demand for deficit reduction, is getting Obama to publicly admit he personally pushed for cutting Social Security benefits, I’d consider that a pretty good consolation prize.