The debt ceiling is going to be increased one way or another, and the only question has been what if anything Republicans could get in return. If Mr. Obama insists on a tax increase, and Republicans won’t vote for one, then what’s the alternative to Mr. McConnell’s maneuver?
Republicans who say they can use the debt limit to force Democrats to agree to a balanced budget amendment are dreaming. Such an amendment won’t get the two-thirds vote to pass the Senate, but it would give every Democrat running for re-election next year a chance to vote for it and claim to be a fiscal conservative. ...
The entitlement state can’t be reformed by one house of Congress in one year against a determined President and Senate held by the other party. It requires more than one election. The Obama Democrats have staged a spending blowout to 24% of GDP and rising, and now they want to find a way to finance it to make it permanent. Those are the real stakes of 2012.
Even if Mr. Obama gets his debt-limit increase without any spending cuts, he will pay a price for the privilege. He’ll have reinforced his well-earned reputation as a spender with no modern peer. He’ll own the record deficits and fast-rising debt. And he’ll own the U.S. credit-rating downgrade to AA if Standard & Poor’s so decides.
We’d far prefer a bipartisan deal to cut spending and reform entitlements without a tax increase. But if Mr. Obama won’t go along, there’s no reason Republicans should help him dodge the political consequences by committing debt-limit harakiri.
Peter Robinson opines that Mitch McConnell is going to calling the shots much of the time anyway.
Over the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve noticed that Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has sounded a lot chirpier—and, frankly, a lot more aggressive—than a man ought to sound when he’s just drawn a bad hand. Why? Well, after looking over a few statistics, I think I know. Sen. McConnell doesn’t believe he’s drawn a bad hand at all. Just take a look a this:
Twenty-three Democratic senators must face re-election in two years (actually, 21 Democrats plus Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both Independents who caucus with the Democrats).* Of those 23, five represent states that John McCain carried in 2008 and George W. Bush carried in 2004. To wit: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia (although just elected this year, Manchin is merely filling out the unexpired term of the late Sen. Byrd). * Four more Democratic senators facing re-election come from states that McCain lost in 2008—but that Bush carried four years earlier. Namely: Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Jim Webb of Virginia.
Which means that although he’ll have only 46 votes in the new Congress to call his own, Mitch McConnell will find that no fewer than nine Democrats are willing—perhaps even eager—to work with him.