WASHINGTON -- Hours before the Senate is set to vote on Majority Leader Harry Reid's latest debt ceiling legislation, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office is circulating a letter with 43 Republican Senators pledging to oppose the bill.
In simple political terms, the letter is an important marker. Reid will need 60 votes to cut off debate on any bill he brings to the floor later this evening or early Sunday morning. He doesn't have them yet. Practically speaking, McConnell's letter is mere theatrics. Reid's bill will get amended between now and then, allowing for some of the signatories to drop their opposition if they so choose.
"The plan you have proposed would not alter the spending trajectory that is putting our economy and national security at risk," the letter reads. "In return for an unprecedented $2.4 trillion debt limit increase, your amendment reduces spending by less than $1 trillion over the next decade. Setting aside the $200 billion shortfall between the CBO scored savings and the $2.4 trillion debt limit increase, identified by the Congressional Budget Office, most of the proposal’s alleged savings are based on a false claim of credit for reductions in war-related spending that were already scheduled to occur."
More telling, indeed, may be the names of the Republican Senators who didn't sign the measure: Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Reid, it seems, needs to make enough changes to the bill (either through steeper spending cuts, or a strong trigger mechanism that would ensure further spending reforms) to win over just three Republicans.