A long summer of wrangling over the debt may result in President Obama getting everything he wants.
Some senators are terrified of losing political face if additional borrowing authority is denied and a partial government shutdown results. They've been mulling two options - a White House-inspired short-term debt-ceiling extension to postpone tough decisions and the McConnell-Reid backup plan about which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Wednesday, "We have a plan to move forward over here, but until we hear from the House of Representatives, really all our work here would be for naught."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came up with the idea to hand Mr. Obama a blank check for $2.5 trillion. The Kentucky Republican believes a convoluted procedural scheme would pin the blame on the administration for cashing that check before Election Day. There would be a vote on three separate occasions - but no drama - as an unobtainable two-thirds majority would be required to block the increase. The blueprint makes no reforms to the out-of-control budgetary process that got us in trouble in the first place.
Sen. Jim DeMint is determined to block it. "The much-discussed 'Plan B' will not stop the downgrade in our bond rating, is meeting stern opposition in the House," the South Carolina Republican told The Washington Times. "I will use every tool to stop it in the Senate."
Conservative grass-roots groups are equally appalled, particularly by the Nevada Democrat's addition of a commission to propose spending reductions without actually requiring the cuts to happen. The charade would just rub in the magnitude of the defeat.
In the back rooms, there's talk of sweetening the deal for House Republicans by attaching $1.5 trillion in unidentified spending "cuts," a figure too small to make a difference in reducing the size and scope of the federal government.
Signing on to such a deal means selling out the American people who gave the GOP a landslide victory just nine months ago. There's no easy and painless way out of this debt debacle, and stop-gap measures now will only make it harder in the years ahead.
If Republicans hand Mr. Obama a clean debt-ceiling increase, they won't be able to wash their hands of the stain.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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