Clean McConnell

07/14/2011 10:50 am ET | Updated Sep 13, 2011
  • Jared Bernstein Fmr. Obama administration economist; CNBC and MSNBC contributor

Note this, from this AM's Washington Post:

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is working with McConnell on this approach. Aides said the two are discussing a strategy that would pair McConnell's debt-limit proposal with at least $1.5 trillion in spending cuts identified through bipartisan talks that Vice President Biden has led in recent weeks.

Recall that Republican Senate Leader McConnell has a plan to allow the president to raise the debt limit without binding spending cuts -- he has to recommend them, then Congress gets to vote on them.

While this may be a (cynical and convoluted) way to avoid default, House Republicans don't like it because they want binding spending cuts -- and, of course, no revenues (other R's like the McConnell plan because they can vote against the higher ceiling but since they won't have the votes to veto the president's request, it will still go up, but without their fingerprints... not exactly bravery in battle, but there it is.)

So what I take from the quote above -- and I'm not sure I'm right -- is that Senators Reid and McConnell are considering attaching $1.5 trillion in binding spending cuts to the McConnell deal to get the House Republicans on the deal.

I say: don't go there.

If we must have McConnell, it should be "clean McConnell." To attach spending cuts with no revenues probably loses Democrat votes and gets you right back in the turgid soup were in already. Not to mention it's imbalanced, lacking the revenue contribution needed to offset deep spending cuts that have the potential to do a lot more harm than good.

You could get whiplash trying to follow the twists and turns of this crazy debate. But stay tuned and I'll try to sort this out throughout the day.

This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.