McConnell Presents Plan to Put Debt Limit Hike Burden on Obama

BY Quinn Bowman  July 12, 2011 at 5:01 PM EST

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., laid out a surprise alternative in the debt limit negotiations Tuesday that would essentially leave it up to President Obama to raise the debt ceiling and allow Republicans to vote against the increase.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

In a move intended to assure financial markets that the United States will not default on its debt, McConnell proposed that Congress pass a law that would authorize President Obama to increase the debt limit. McConnell said he was increasingly pessimistic about reaching any deal with the White House on a way to cut spending in exchange for raising the debt limit.

Here are the main provisions of McConnell’s proposal:

-President Obama would make three separate requests to increase the debt limit. Once now, once in the fall and once in summer 2012. The total would be the $2.5 trillion needed to increase the debt limit until the end of President Obama’s first term. The first request would be for $700 billion, followed by two requests of $900 billion.

-Each request would have to be accompanied by spending reduction requests greater than the amount of the debt limit increase, but these would not be binding on Congress.

-Each request would also be subject to a “resolution of disapproval,” which President Obama would presumably veto. McConnell said he thinks both chambers would pass resolution. A veto can only be overridden by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.

McConnell said this option is not his first choice for how to deal with the debt limit debate.

“I had hoped all year long that the opportunities presented by his request of us to raise the debt ceiling would generate a bipartisan agreement that would begin to get our house in order by reducing spending. That may still happen, I hope it will. But we aren’t going to send a signal to the markets and the American people that default is an option,” McConnell said.

One Republican presidential hopeful immediately rejected McConnell’s approach:

McConnell’s plan is an irresponsible surrender to big government, big deficits and continued overspending. I oppose it.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply



Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the White House was “moving away” during the current round of talks from supporting spending cuts — totaling approximately $500 billion — that were agreed to during the Biden round of talks. Because of this, a deal seems less likely and an alternative plan might be necessary, Kyl said.

McConnell conceded that this arrangement would not guarantee that spending cuts would be enacted, but he hopes those cuts can still come as part of a bipartisan agreement.

“I still want to cut spending. I was hoping he wanted to cut spending without extracting as a condition for cutting spending what we believe are job killing tax increases, so that’s the discussion that continues,” McConnell said.

McConnell and Kyl met with the president and other congressional leaders Tuesday afternoon at the White House.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images