House Democrats are registering their disapproval of Mitch McConnell’s Plan B, which would allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling without cuts but also without approval from Republicans, in the event a deal cannot be reached.
The plan initially split Republicans between those who saw it as a savvy way to stick Obama with the blame (or credit) for raising the debt limit without cuts and those who are staunchly against any plan that will raise the debt limit without spending cuts. But it has also split Democrats, who have acknowledged both its usefulness as a fail-safe and a way for the GOP to strengthen its hand by avoiding blame for either a default or a lack of spending cuts.
“I’m not a fan of the McConnell proposal,” Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, the senior Democrat on the Budget Committee, said yesterday. “It’s designed to protect mostly Republican members of Congress from taking responsibility for votes that they’ve already made.” Democratic whip Steny Hoyer echoed Van Hollen’s remarks.
Conservative House Republicans have been circulating a pledge to vote against Plan B, meaning the plan would need Democrats–probably a significant number of them in the House–to pass. So are Democrats signaling that they would kill the plan, which has the president’s support?
It’s possible, but highly doubtful, that Democrats would cross the president on this. More likely, we’ll see a replay of the battle over the looming government shutdown in April. Despite the widely held belief that Republicans would be blamed more for the shutdown, Obama was nervous about any loss in market confidence–nervous enough to support a deal when congressional Democrats were itching for a shutdown they could blame on the GOP.
So this is probably a negotiating tactic, but one that could backfire on the Democrats. If they successfully transmit the idea the McConnell deal is good for the GOP and bad for Obama, and then facilitate that deal anyway, Republicans will be glad Hoyer and Van Hollen, among many others, chose to speak up.