Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday that "a hundred percent of the Republicans on the Appropriations Committee" would be putting forward what he called the "Sessions-McCaskill freeze."
"We're going to recommend a smaller pie, if you will, a smaller discretionary spending budget to our friends in the majority," McConnell said. The entire GOP conference was united behind the proposal put forward by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri and an outspoken backer of Obama early in the presidential campaign, said she was thrilled to hear the GOP had glommed on to her proposal.
"I think that's a terrific idea," she said. "I think if we tried to do massive cutting now, we could be dangerously close to a much more serious recession. But capping growth is exactly what we should be doing." McCaskill's measure would cap the growth of domestic spending at one percent.
The GOP's fiscal renaissance notwithstanding, the majority party's representatives on the Appropriations Committee have little passion for spending freezes, which deprive them of the power they waited around the Senate all those years to obtain. The Democrats' 17-12 margin on the committee -- McCaskill is not a member -- makes it unlikely the Republicans will prevail there.
A floor fight is a different question. The McCaskill-Sessions amendment has gotten as many as 59 votes this year. The last time it came to the floor, McCaskill noted, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) voted for it for the first time. "We're two votes away," she said. "Jeff and I talk about it all the time. I think we're going to keep strategizing ways to get it to the floor."
Economists have been urging the Congress to expand funding for job creation and unemployment benefits, waring of a double-dip recession. McCaskill, however, said her measure would not set back the recovery. "I think it sends the right signals to the international markets. I think it sends the right signals to our market and I think it's the right thing to do in term of economics," she said.
Interest on U.S. debt is near historic lows, however, undermining the notion that the foreign investors are worried about the ability of the U.S. to pay its debts, HuffPost noted to McCaskill. "Well, I'm more worried about people in Missouri being nervous about the national debt than I am [worried about foreign investors]. But I think clearly what has gone on in the international market is people understand that debt is the enemy of economic growth," she said.
McCaskill's proposal would freeze spending at a one-percent growth rate over the next three years. Obama has proposed a similar freeze and his administration has been highlighting the deficit in the wake of the run on Greek debt -- a posture that has harmed efforts to get spending through Congress by creating a climate of fear around the debt. More than 40 days ago, Congress allowed extended unemployment benefits to lapse; more than two million people have been cut off.
McCaskill said she counts as many as 17 Democrats who are backing the Sessions-McCaskill freeze. "There is significant support for it in the Democratic caucus," she said.