Dan Foster at National Review presents the strongest case for the Mitch McConnell back-up plan, which boils down to a recognition of the possibility “[t]here is no deal to be had that is a deal worth having,” and so it’s up to the responsible McConnell to prevent the nation’s credit from being destroyed.
That could be right. But, albeit without having the inside information that McConnell does, I share Ross Douthat’s worry that the Republicans are leaving a very good deal on the table:
I just hope Republicans are clear on the implications of a punt. If Ezra Klein’s reporting is right, their debt-ceiling brinksmanship has earned them the chance to have a Democratic White House sign off on raising the Medicare retirement age and modestly cutting Social Security, in exchange for pre-empting the expiration of the Bush tax cuts with a revenue-increasing Bowles-Simpson-style tax reform. Maybe this deal doesn’t really, or maybe it isn’t a deal worth taking; maybe, as Yuval Levin suggests, Republicans should only contemplate a revenue-increasing tax reform in the context of more fundamental changes to entitlements. But if they don’t make a deal now, the G.O.P. is effectively putting the spending debate in the hands of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign (or Rick Perry’s, or Michele Bachmann’s …), and betting the future of the tax code on the outcome of the 2012 election. And as Josh Barro notes, the whole “we’ll wait till after the election to push on shrinking government” has tended to go poorly for Republicans in the past.