Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why Obama Has Already Won the Debt-Limit Fight

I get the feeling that it’s all over but the shouting. We may look back and say that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s convoluted parliamentary “backup plan” marked the effective end of the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis. The winner? President Barack Obama.

Sure, an agreement this month on reducing the deficit would be preferable for restoring confidence in the economy and for the president’s legacy. Obama has told lawmakers they need to decide by Friday if a bargain is possible. But even if the parties miraculously strike a deal in the Cabinet Room, the votes aren’t there on Capitol Hill to pass it.

The plan offered by McConnell this week does what Obama and the Republicans claimed they want to avoid: It kicks the can down the road again. Republicans in both houses -- not to mention online and on the airwaves -- were furious about his proposal, and McConnell even backpedaled from it a bit. But they have nothing else to fall back on.

If you went into the congressional kitchen to cook up the perfect Washington fudge, this is what you’d get. Instead of “doing something big” about the deficit, McConnell is proposing to do nothing -- then blame the other side.

It’s a sign of how ungovernable the country has become that something resembling this scheme is now the most practical way forward.