U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) proposed an interesting solution to the stalled debt ceiling negotiations in Washington. McConnell’s plan would give President Obama full authority to raise the debt ceiling without Congressional approval.
Essentially, McConnell proposed to give Obama the steering wheel on the debt ceiling crisis and let him drive the bus himself.
If the plan sounds crazy to you, you are not alone. Most of McConnell’s Republican colleagues have dismissed the plan, refusing to give Obama any more power over the situation than he already has.
But, even though I believe the plan has practical flaws, I think most of McConnell’s GOP colleagues are being short-sighted about the political advantages of McConnell’s plan. Frankly, it’s one of the more Machiavellian ideas to come out of Washington in a while.
Senator Mitch McConnell has been a Senator for nearly thirty years. This is not his first rodeo. I don’t believe this proposal was simply meant to break the deadlock and give up critical power to President Obama.
I think McConnell is savvy enough to realize that the Republicans will be forced into some sort of compromise on the debt ceiling deal, one way or the other. To force a stalemate and see the stock markets and other economic indicators go in the toilet is not a strong strategic position.
With some sort of compromise inevitable, both Republicans and Democrats would have equal sized weapons to smack each other with in the form of thirty second attack ads in 2012. Compromise doesn’t create a political advantage.
However, if President Obama is given the full authority to raise the debt ceiling, he and his fellow Democrats would feel the full wrath of any public disgust with the situation.
For the GOP to lose in that scenario, either the new debt ceiling would have to not be needed or the public would have to formally embrace the new ceiling that Obama would set.
Neither of those scenarios is very likely since voters of all stripes are becoming wary of our debt situation on the global level.
That would make McConnell’s idea seem like a strong plan.
But as a political move, McConnell’s idea is risky. Frankly, the public may not want to hear about this issue in 2012. There may be much more to talk about besides this issue, even though it seems very important right now. Also, the GOP may send a relatively flawed candidate to run against Obama and all of this work to potentially weaken the President would go for naught.
Another risk of McConnell’s plan is made obvious by the short-sighted GOP reaction to the idea. Tea Party activists and true conservatives despise debt and would see McConnell’s move as surrendering authority to the President on their most important issue. Basically, Tea Party folks would see this not as a Machiavellian method of weakening your opponent, but rather as the ultimate betrayal on their key issue.
It’s not surprising to hear that the Obama administration has embraced the idea. I think they are savvy enough to know that if they announce that they like the idea, it should strengthen and embolden GOP resistance to the idea.
If the Obama administration actually likes the idea, they are either very optimistic about Obama’s re-election chances, or they are as short sighted as rank and file Republicans.
In any event, this proposal probably won’t go any farther than providing anger for conservative activists and fun reasons to use the word “Machiavellian” for bloggers like me. Bold ideas take an appetite for risk and a true gambling spirit to see the light of day.
Those qualities aren’t exactly in large supply in Washington right now.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.