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June 27, 2011 4:40 PM How wrong is McConnell? Let us count the ways

By Steve Benen

In about an hour, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will join President Obama and Senate Majority Leader (D-Nev.) in the Oval Office, launching the next phase in the debt-reduction talks. Before McConnell gets there, he’s already trying to take part of a bipartisan solution off the table.

Hours before a meeting with President Obama at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that any debt-ceiling deals that included tax hikes would be “politically impossible” in the current Congress because most Republicans and many Democrats oppose them.

“Those who are calling for tax hikes as a part of these debt discussions either have amnesia about the fate of similar votes just six months ago — when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House — or they’re acting in bad faith, since we all know that including massive, job-killing tax hikes would be a poison pill,” said McConnell on Monday from the Senate floor.

McConnell said he plans to ask the president for ideas on how to solve the debt crisis that do not include tax increases. “I intend to ask the president what he’s prepared to do, outside of raising taxes, about the massive deficits and debt that have accumulated on his watch”, said McConnell.

Let’s unpack this a bit, because I think it’s important, especially now as the talks enter the final phase.

First, to characterize tax increases as necessarily “job killing” is idiotic, even for a congressional Republican.

Second, McConnell, like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), seems to believe that the caucus he ostensibly leads is so unreasonable, he can’t even ask them to consider a bipartisan compromise. Indeed, as of today, McConnell believes anyone who suggests a balanced, bipartisan compromise is “acting in bad faith,” because they’re asking Republicans to do what every other bipartisan debt-reduction package has always done. This is insane.

Third, it’s almost amusing to hear McConnell demand a presidential plan “outside of raising taxes.” Does McConnell want to reduce the deficit or not? Does Obama get to say, “I intend to ask the Minority Leader what he’s prepared to do, outside of job-killing spending cuts”? If not, why does McConnell — the leader of the Senate minority — get to bark orders to the majority about what can and cannot be on the table?

And finally, my personal favorite is McConnell whining about the “massive” debt that’s “accumulated” on Obama’s watch. Since McConnell is so concerned about “amnesia,” let me refresh his memory: the The Kentucky Republican voted for the Bush tax cuts, and added the costs to the national debt. McConnell then voted to finance the war in Afghanistan by adding the costs to the national debt. He then voted to put the costs of the war in Iraq onto the national debt. McConnell supported a massive expansion of the government’s role in health care, Medicare Part D, and voted to pile all of its costs right onto the national debt, and then backed the financial industry bailout, and added the bill to the national debt. All the while, McConnell had no qualms about voting to raise the debt limit, over and over again, without conditions.

But now he oft-confused Minority Leader is demanding (a) that Obama clean up McConnell’s mess; and (b) do so in a way McConnell finds ideologically pleasing.

Tell you what, Mitch. Republicans concerned about who’s responsible for the fiscal mess the GOP created should take a look at this chart, recently put together by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

When Republicans are done looking at it, they can start by apologizing.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • slappy magoo on June 27, 2011 4:46 PM:

    And let's face it, whenever we get a Republican President again, McConnell will be one of the biggest douche bags insisting that anything short of acquiescence to our GOP overlord is treason. The lip he gives the President, he'd never let that sort of attitude slide by a Democrat to a Republican President. They're hypocritical douche bags of the highest order. But to call them out on it, they'll argue we were just as lippy to Bush, we'll have to argue that Bush had higher than average approval ratings after the Supreme Court granted him the Presidency and they skyrocketed after 9/11 and he squandered that goodwill, then they'll accuse of us as being weak on the economy and soft on terror and we'll feel compelled to point out all the veterans and budget gurus on the left versus all the draft dodgers who coddled Bush's deficit-riddled agenda on the right, back and forth, back and forth, and the low-info voters gives up trying to follow this discourse and decides not to vote because he or she just doesn't know who to trust...

    And that's how the Republicans win.

  • Goldilocks on June 27, 2011 4:52 PM:

    Presumably Obama's team will have this chart on floor-to-ceiling display in the conference room.

  • PTate in Mn on June 27, 2011 4:53 PM:

    A nice summary of just how wrong McConnell is.

    You even left off the list that McConnell was one of those insisting on extending the deficit-causing Bush era tax cuts. As you have pointed out before, if we simply let those tax rates revert to Clinton era rates, 34 to 39%, that big scary deficit goes away.

  • DAY on June 27, 2011 4:55 PM:

    As a youth, l'il Mitchie asked Papa for a carriage and four horses- complete with postman and outriders.

    Papa gave l'il Mitchie a Shetland pony, which is what he wanted all along. . .

  • T2 on June 27, 2011 4:55 PM:

    McConnell is the definition of "Jerk"

  • whichwitch on June 27, 2011 4:59 PM:

    "...why does McConnell � the leader of the Senate minority � get to bark orders to the majority about what can and cannot be on the table?"

    Because Obama is black and naturally subservient to a white man. I mean come on, you don't actually think he's the POTUS do you?

    The GOP has continually disrespected our current President from day one. It's not going to change anytime soon.


  • c u n d gulag on June 27, 2011 5:07 PM:

    Yertle the Turtle McConnell is trying to run a 'shell' game, where tax increases never appear under any of the options.

    Back to the earlier post:

    MAKE THE DISCUSSIONS TRANPARANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Show Boner and the Turtle defending cutting SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and education, while continuing to spend on the military, and keep the tax cuts for those making over $500,000.

  • Hieronymus The Troll Braintree on June 27, 2011 5:10 PM:

    That's great, Steve. But shouldn't Obama get on the TV and say this shit? What good is it if liberals are only saying this to liberals?

  • r on June 27, 2011 5:23 PM:

    Um, so? They're clearly setting themselves up that nothing will appease them unless they get everything their way. And who here really thinks they'll back down? They WANT the US to fail.

  • bdop4 on June 27, 2011 5:36 PM:

    That graph has been out there for months, but I have yet to see one follow-up by a "reporter" that references it.

    I also don't see many Dems referencing it either. Certainly not in front of the MSM cameras.

  • RAM on June 27, 2011 5:54 PM:

    Why negotiate anything at all concerning the "debt ceiling?" After reading the 14th Amendment, it seems to me that once Congress formally votes to approve spending, there is no debt limit that has to be raised:

    "Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

    Seems pretty clear; once Congress agrees to spend money, it has to be paid back, "debt limit" or no "debt limit."

  • Mitch on June 27, 2011 5:57 PM:

    'Does Obama get to say, I intend to ask the Minority Leader what hes prepared to do, outside of job-killing spending cuts?'

    Obama SHOULD say that. Moreover every single Democratic offical in the country should say this over, and over again.

    But they won't, and the Republicans will win both this battle and the Public Relations contest.

    Prove me wrong.

  • Dave on June 27, 2011 6:43 PM:

    Fantastic post. Please apply for Carney's gig.

  • Zorro on June 27, 2011 10:26 PM:

    When Republicans are done looking at [the chart], they can start by apologizing.

    Being Republican means never having to say you're sorry.

    -Z

  • Typical Liberal Purist Asshole on June 27, 2011 10:36 PM:

    Don't worry, the useless chickenshit coward limp dick Democrats will be sure to bend over and give Mitch and the GOP every single thing they want, in return for nothing as usual. Obama was so naive to think he could remotely 'change the tone' in DC. He still doesnt get it through his head that they HATE him with every fiber in their bodies and they will NEVER EVER give in to the scary black man on anything.

    But what else is new? The Democrats will cave because that is what Democrats do, since they have no balls and no spine and they just cower in fear like the goddamn pussies that they are.

    Boy I am SO glad I stayed home last November to teach the Democrats a lesson. It's working out SO well.

  • starab on June 28, 2011 6:01 AM:


    === {{w w w }} {{be tter whole saler }} {{ u s }} ====

    Dedi cated service, the new style, believing you will love it!!!

  • bob h on June 28, 2011 7:13 AM:

    I'm thinking that Obama has to go on TV, explain that he has tried to be reasonable with the Republicans, but he is dealing with fanatics who are willing to crash the economy unless they get everything they want. Therefore, because he cannot allow that to happen, he is going to ignore the debt ceiling and instruct Geithner to keep on issuing bonds and keep on borrowing.

  • square1 on June 28, 2011 8:46 AM:

    Sounds like sour grapes on Benen's part that McConnell is a much better negotiator than Obama and Reid.

    Personally, I'm not sold that this is entirely bad negotiation on Obama's part, as I still think that he is trying to lower the debt in a way that doesn't piss off the millionaires from whom he is currently trying to raise $1B in re-election funds.

    But, even if Obama is going with a "the GOP made me do it" strategy, he is a fool for making himself look like McConnell's bitch. Hell, The Hill just promoted McConnell to Majority leader. Must have been a freudian slip.

    Boy I am SO glad I stayed home last November to teach the Democrats a lesson. It's working out SO well.

    Let's just clear something up. Obama's biggest critics on the Left, by and large, are not the ones who stayed home last November. His biggest critics tend to be among the most politically informed and politically active. WE VOTE.

    And these critics warned Obama and Congressional Democrats that (a) the stimulus was insufficient, (b) Democrats need to stop trying to out-flank the GOP on things like off-shore drilling and tax cuts (voters will vote real Repub over fake Repub every time), (c) Wall Street needed to be held accountable, (d) it was stupid to pass a health reform bill that Democrats had to run away from.

    We warned the Democrats that if they governed and ran as Fake Republicans instead of as the Real Democrats that they promised to be then the Democrats would get a shellacking because the independents, low-information voters, and young voters would lose the enthusiasm and optimism that they felt in 2006 and 2008 and stay home. Guess what? To paraphrase Judy Miller, we were proved fucking right.

    And what group of Democrats were rejected most of all? The Blue Dogs who demanded that liberalism be tossed aside in order for the Blue Dogs to win re-election.

    So how about, just for once, Centrist Democrats accept some responsibility for their own failures and give up the self-pitying and delusional belief that, if not for Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald, they would control the House and have 60+ votes in the Senate.

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