Liberals worry embrace of McConnell proposal could harm Dem Party

Some liberal House Democrats on Friday voiced concerns that their leadership is embracing Kentucky GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell's debt-ceiling proposal to the detriment of the party.

The Democrats fear that McConnells plan — which would empower President Obama to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally in three steps over the next 17 months — would focus all the public blame for enacting an unpopular policy onto Obama and the Democrats, while the Republicans walk away unscathed.

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McConnell is a very clever guy, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said Friday morning after a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus. He set up an intricate, multi-tiered trap to deliver on his promise to get Obama out of office and devastate the Democrats. We see it as a trap. 

If youre going to do something like that, you shouldnt have to [do it three times] and all this B.S., DeFazio added. “[All that's needed is] a one-time vote.

Rep. Jim Moran sounded a similar warning Friday. The Virginia Democrat said the McConnell proposal is not about whats in the best interest of the country but about weakening the Democratic Party for the next decade.

Were dealing with people who care first about making sure that President Obama is not reelected, Moran said.

This is a much more defining vote than many have accepted, he added, referring to Democratic leaders.

Moran said the leaders desire for a quick debt-ceiling hike is understandable, as several powerful finance agencies have warned this week that the United States sterling triple-A credit rating is in jeopardy if Congress doesnt act soon.

Theyre figuring weve got to raise the debt ceiling, so we dont have any choice but to do it on [Republicans] terms, he said. Thats why were at a disadvantage.

Still, the Virginia Democrat warned that the political ramifications for the Democrats would be severe if the McConnell plan is adopted.

If we cast this vote, then the die is cast for the next decade, he warned.

Democratic leaders were non-committal about the McConnell plan Friday. During a press briefing following the caucus meeting, Rep. John Larson (Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said leaders are still waiting to see the details.

When we find out more about it, I guess well be able to respond, Larson said.

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Democratic leaders said theyre pushing for a clean debt-ceiling hike as a Plan B if bipartisan negotiators fail to reach an agreement on a larger deficit-reduction package before the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department.

The House already has killed a clean debt-ceiling bill this summer, and GOP leaders have indicated they remain opposed to that option.

Obama on Friday pushed back against the McConnell plan — or any proposal that doesnt slash deficit spending — calling those the least attractive of the options on the table at the moment.

If we take that approach, this [deficit] issue is going to continue to plague us for months and years to come, Obama said during a press conference at the White House.

I am still pushing for us to do a big deal, he said.

Still, the McConnell plan was a hot topic of conversation during Friday's Democratic Caucus meeting.

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) acknowledged that passing the McConnell plan would be a political disadvantage for the Democrats. Still, he said if it were the only way to avoid defaulting on obligations, then I would very reluctantly vote for it.

Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said many Democrats are approaching the McConnell option with a good deal of caution.

Theres a lot of concern that it essentially passes the buck, instead of [Congress] standing up and raising the ceiling, Levin said.

A clean debt-ceiling hike, he added, is clearly the best way to do it.