One of the most controversial measures in President Obama's opening bid on the fiscal cliff was a proposal to strip Congress of the power to approve the raising of the debt ceiling. "Congress is never going to give up this power," House Speaker John Boehner insisted Sunday. Well, the Obama administration has to decided to go along with that insistance (mostly), and of course there's more brinkmanship than that — the president's latest attempt to portray congressional Republicans as unreasonable now boils down to something like this: What? What did I say? It was y'all's idea all along.
The Treasury Department published a blog post Wednesday saying the Obama administration supports the "McConnell Provision," which "received broad bipartisan support last year." During the debt limit fight, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed giving lawmakers the chance to vote against a debt increase, without making them vote for one. If Congress rejected a debt limit increase, the president could veto their rejection, and Congress wouldn't be able to override the veto. As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein exlplained last week, Obama's idea is slightly different. McConnell's plan allows three increases in the debt limit, while Obama's allows indefinite increases. And McConnell's plan required Obama to propose spending cuts larger than the debt increase, and Obama's is no strings attached. (Boehner explained his rejection of Obama's idea, saying, "I've made it clear to the president, that every time we get to the debt limit, we need to cut some reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.")
"If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't laugh maniacally at President Barack Obama's proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff, he should have for one simple reason: Obama has proposed taking spending authority away from Congress by allowing the president to raise the U.S. debt ceiling at will," Greg Johnson, editorial columnist for Knoxville News, wrote December 3. Johnson was capturing what appears to be the current Republican mood. But it still looks funny next to this July 12, 2011 NPR headline, "McConnell Proposes Congress Punt Debt-Ceiling Power To Obama."