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July 13, 2011

Jen Rubin: You Just Don't Understand McConnell's Plan

She patiently explains it all again.

The problem is, I do understand it. He's punting on the debt ceiling -- giving Obama all he wants -- and hopes to get in exchange only the dubious political value of having the Democrats vote for the debt increase three times.

I posted on this three times yesterday. The first time I recognized it as a capitulation, but then mused that if we're doomed to capitulate, might as well get a political benefit out of it.

In the second post I praised McConnell's speech, and considered the political benefits of the proposal further, and was generally positive about them -- assuming this is the best we could get. (Which I don't assume, but assuming that.)

In my third post I noticed liberals were jumping at the plan, lovin' it, and I also noted this:

McConnell had a similar scheme back in December 2009 as we were voting on ObamaCare. We could have forced the Democrats to remain in session through the holidays; instead, McConnell agreed to let them recess and come back, in exchange for a supposedly prominent vote on the 2010 debt ceiling hike.

Yeah, that wasn't as prominent as planned, was it? No one reported on it and it resulted in zero political benefit.

Plus, the media would have a reason to downplay these later votes that are supposed to be so "brutal" for the Democrats. They would claim the Republicans caved early and set up a rubber-stamp formality for the later votes, so the later votes are unimportant. And they'd have a point.

The liberals are right here. The public took no notice of the debt ceiling increase in 2010, and they will take no notice of it in 2011, either.

Since Jennifer Rubin is in explaining mode, can she explain the big benefit we got from this the last time we did it?

Because all I remember is the media briefly noting the debt ceiling had been raised yet again. I don't even remember McConnell himself pushing the story to the media. (Then again, maybe he tried, and the media just ignored him.)

So here we are again, with the same basic plan: We'll cave to the Democrats, but we'll get them on the record with a vote, and then we'll bash them over the heads with it.

Like last time?

The concept isn’t that hard to understand. 1. McConnell had enough of the phony White House talks. The White House offered a paltry $2 billion in actual, immediate cuts. 2. McConnell gave a speech to make clear that wasn’t enough and that the debt limit would be raised only with real cuts and without tax hikes. 3. McConnell could sit back and wait for default. 4. But he comes up with a mechanism to force Obama to put up cuts, send them to Congress and face “default” if the president’s cuts don't get through. 5. In the process he makes 34 Democratic senators vote over and over again on cuts. (The sound you hear in the background is the conga line at the Senate Republican Committee headquarters.)

Again: Like last time?

And you know what she's leaving out? That bit about voting on the cuts? She means Obama would veto the cuts and need those 34 senators to sustain his veto. So while she's speaking of "cuts," she isn't mentioning the salient fact that in this scheme there are in fact no cuts at all. The Democrats just keep voting against them, and they get their debt ceiling rise anyway.

But apparently we're going to really get some huge political benefit by making them merely checking three boxes in a form that McConnell has already filled out for them.

But Rubin continues insisting that people just don't understand the brilliance here:

The critics who dimly understand the plan forget that the alternatives are limited....

If there is a criticism of the McConnell plan it is that he vastly overestimated the ability of the political class to understand an out-of-the-box proposal. Maybe he could come up with a chart or a video. For now, expect another speech on the Senate floor tomorrow and some talk-radio appearances. And guess what? If no one likes the plan we can go back to the main ring, where Obama is offering only $2 billion in real spending cuts.

No, I understand, see. I just know this was pitched to me a year and a half ago and resulted in doodly-squat as far as alleged political benefit accruing to us thanks to a capitulation.

Does Rubin? Does Rubin remember this episode? Or did she never even know of it?

This is, per my initial reaction, too cute by half. It's a deliberate, cute trap McConnell is creating, where instead of voting against the debt ceiling increase, they vote for it, but then require the Democrats to go through the formality of requesting the debt ceiling increase (three time) to get it.

The media will see this for what it is: An initial capitulation by Republicans, followed by three votes which are no more than formalities, and deserving of that level of reportage.

Dan Riehl takes her to task. First I thought he was being a little hot-headed, but now that I read Rubin's column, seriously, she is ineffably snotty.

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posted by Ace at 12:08 PM

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