The Spectacle Blog

Hennessey on the McConnell Plan

By on 7.15.11 | 10:54AM

Policy guru Keith Hennessey has studied Sen. Mitch McConnell's "Plan B" for the debt ceiling, and explained it in plain language for the rest of us. The plan is convoluted, and probably unenforceable without President Obama's cooperation, yet it is very cleverly designed. Hennessey explains that it would place the burden of raising the debt ceiling entirely on the president, allowing most congressmen to vote against raising it while forcing Obama not only to propose it, but also to veto Congress's inevitable disapproval of his proposal. While Obama would certainly suffer politically, no spending cuts would be enacted. 

Hennessey explains the subtlety of this concept: 

  • The McConnell bill does not increase the debt limit. It authorizes the President to increase the debt limit, as long as Congress doesn't prevent him from doing so. Thus, you as a Member of Congress could vote for the McConnell bill, then vote for the subsequent resolutions of disapproval, and honestly say that you never voted to raise the debt limit.  Yet the debt limit is much more likely to be increased, given the lower success hurdle of just sustaining a veto. This political logic is core to the proposal.
  • This mechanism would work exactly like the TARP funding mechanism enacted in September, 2008. That TARP funding mechanism was modeled after a longstanding provision in law that governs Congress' ability to disapprove regulations implemented by the President with aresolution of disapproval. If you are familiar with either the Congressional Review Act process (for regs) or the TARP "tranche" process, this is close to an exact copy.
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