House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has given what seems like a stamp of approval to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) fallback strategy to avoid a catastrophic default on U.S. debt.
“His idea if we can’t get there, none of us believe we ought to default on the full faith and credit of the United States government,” Boehner said. “I think that idea and there are other ideas out there in terms of backup plans. In case we can’t come to an agreement…. Everybody believes there needs to be a backup plan if we are unable to come to an agreement. I think Mitch has done good work.”
McConnell’s plan, as described in detail here, would hand President Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally, but leave the political onus for doing so on the Democratic party — forcing members to vote on the issue repeatedly between now and the 2012 election. In the end, it would be functionally equivalent of a clean debt-limit bill — if it met constitutional muster.
This basically nixes the GOP’s leverage to set the terms of the debt debate. If default is off the table, and the Republican leaders in both the House and Senate are endorsing backup plans, then either there will be a genuinely bipartisan debt and deficit deal, or the debt limit will be raised with merely symbolic muss and fuss.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.