There are many satisfying things about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed way out of the debt ceiling stalemate. It puts the onus on the president and congressional Democrats to raise the debt ceiling without cutting spending. It at least theoretically forces the president to outline his spending priorities at a time when the congressional wing of his party has been unable to pass a budget. And it pins a lot of tough votes on Democrats.
But unfortunately, it also helps Republicans evade responsibility. Spending cuts would have to be proposed, not implemented. The increase in the debt ceiling without real reforms, with just one-third of each house voting to approve the increase, would basically be a foregone conclusion. So only gimmickry separates this from what Republicans were trying to avoid in the first place: just raising the debt ceiling without any cuts or reforms.
Compared to some of the actual substantive reforms that have been floated, this is thin gruel. The only salutary effects could be to push Obama to put his spending plans in writing and make liberals repeatedly vote for a higher debt limit. But after further-reaching solutions like “Cut, Cap, Balance,” even a lot of House Republicans are going to have a hard time swallowing this. The only other thing that can be said in its favor is that it is better than a bad agreement filled with tax increases.