McConnell's Brilliant Move, Explained

Some Conservatives Attack GOP Leader McConnell for "Bailing Out" Democrats By Proposing a Brief Debt Limit Extension. News: It's the Democrats Who Are Really Pissed. And Terry McAuliffe.

Some of my conservative friends will reflexively - and unthinkingly - attack me for this. But humor me. Read it. All of it.

It should have been no surprise that Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell expertly timed a proposal late Wednesday - after the “markets” closed, and more about that later - to go along with a temporary, conditional “deal” to extend our government’s debt limit until December, including a “price tag” just south of $500 billion.

A couple of GOP Senators, Lindsey Graham (R-SC and ranking member of the Budget Committee) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) wasted no time imitating (Senate Democratic Leader) Chuck Schumer and proving that the most dangerous place in America is between them and a microphone. From MSN News:

Senators Lindsey Graham (R- SC) and Ted Cruz (R- TX) ripped Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- KY) for the deal he offered Democrats on raising the debt ceiling.

Senate leaders reached a deal Thursday to raise the debt ceiling through December, after a proposal Wednesday from McConnell to the Democrats.

Both Cruz and Graham openly criticized McConnell and accused him of folding.

The two senators joined Sean Hannity on his radio show Thursday to elaborate on their frustrations.

“I don’t want any Republican fingerprints on raising the debt limit,” Graham said. “The road to socialism goes through the debt.”

He said that while Republicans were initially united, “we folded like a cheap suit here in the 11th hour.”

Cruz, meanwhile, said it’s a “lousy deal” and a “mistake.”

“Our leadership got cold feet, they got weak-kneed because they were afraid that Manchin and Sinema would agree to nuke the filibuster, which is what has been threatened over and over and over again.”

While I get playing to your anti-debt, anti-Democrat base via Sean Hannity’s radio show, this is balderdash, and they know it. It was brilliant and wholly consistent with McConnell’s statements since July that Democrats can raise the debt limit on their own via the filibuster-free budget reconciliation process. He laid the trap to confirm that, and Democrats angrily and reluctantly walked right into it.

And there is so much more to it than is being reported. McConnell is now officially living rent-free in Senate Democratic heads. Frankly, he’s been there for a while.

Here’s what likely happened. First, this is not really news. It had been already reported that Republicans were willing to give Democrats more time on their disastrous and poll-plummeting $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to avoid a potentially harmful impact on financial markets. But McConnell’s timing allowed him - and Senate Republicans - to take credit for Thursday’s stock market rise, coupled with credit from jittery financial executives for calming market fears.

Yes, McConnell also bailed Democrats out of their terrible quandary. But to do otherwise likely would have resulted in finger-pointing and financially disruptive activities that would have undermined confidence in US financial markets. Yes, we can argue whether the Administration’s threats of financial “disaster” were warranted (perhaps not, at least in the short term), and to what extent. But our views don’t count - those on Wall Street with big offices trillions of dollars at stake do. Like it or not, that’s reality.

Polls show that Democrats are already being blamed for the debt limit quandary. But public opinion can shift. And McConnell knows that if disruptions occurred, prices would be paid by everyone, regardless of party. And it was also “bad government.” Whatever confidence in Congress and the Executive to deal with real issues would have been even further eroded.

Instead, McConnell laid his trap. “Come into my reconciliation lair,” he said in Senate-speak. “I offer you a brief respite today. All it will cost you is a vote tomorrow (that I can blame you for) to raise our debt another $500 billion so you can do what I suggested - add a debt limit increase to your partisan "reconciliation” bill (at your political expense).

Democrats were pissed (editor’s note: overused term, but not inaccurate) over McConnell’s offer. Some suggest that McConnell was on the defense over fear 1) he was losing votes among his caucus (remotely possible, but unlikely) or 2) that Schumer was about to end the filibuster (HIGHLY unlikely; Democratic spin).

And his deal only required 10 votes from his caucus, which was never in doubt. He could give 80 percent of his caucus a free ride to vote “no” while demanding every Democrat vote to further increase our debt to 125% of our national debt. And perhaps make Senate President Kamala Harris break the tie.

Politically, this is genius. First, McConnell can give about 80% of his conference a free pass to vote no on a debt ceiling increase (he just needs 10 votes, and he has them, obviously). Second, it makes the Democrats’ “reconciliation” negotiations more difficult by forcing them to include a vote to suspend the debt ceiling until after the 2022 elections in the bill - that won’t play well in competitive races, especially in New Hampshire (Maggie Hassen), Nevada (Catherine Cortez-Masto), Arizona (Mark Kelley), and possibly other states with open seat elections where GOP prospects will improve (PA, NC, etc.).

Not to mention, of course, all the other issues involved with this massive spending bill, which Americans will no doubt learn more about while the internecine Democratic battles continue.

But here’s the real genius. It allows the delicious theater of contentious and poll-plummeting Democratic negotiations over the $1.1 trillion “bipartisan” infrastructure bill coupled with the $3.5 trillion partisan welfare for journalists bill to continue up to and well past the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial elections on Nov. 2nd.

This means Democratic nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is, well, pissed. He must hate this. It is NOT the environment he wants casting a cloud over his election prospect in Virginia, while the diminished and incapacitated Joe Biden’s ratings are plummeting in the Commonwealth.

McConnell understands how important Virginia’s elections are to fundraising and GOP recruiting and prospects are for 2022. It is a true bellwether. If GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin wins, GOP prospects for 2022 will pick up a nice tailwind.

All hail McConnell.