Sen. Lee says McConnell’s contingency plan is inadequate

McConnell has proposed legislation that would authorize President Obama to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion over the next 20 months, which Congress could rescind only by passing a resolution of disapproval. But the plan would grant Obama nearly automatic authority to raise the ceiling because he could veto a resolution of disapproval. The measure would require the support of just over a third of the Senate or House to sustain a veto.

Lee said voters would likely hold Republican lawmakers accountable for granting Obama authority to raise the debt limit. He compared a vote on McConnell’s plan to a vote authorizing the president to conduct a military operation in his capacity as commander in chief.

He argued that votes for unsuccessful resolutions of disapproval would carry little weight with voters.

“The public would justifiably, correctly understand us as voting to support [raising the debt limit] and would not be thrown off the scent of our support for that simply by saying we weren’t voting to do it,” he said.

Lee reiterated his support for passing Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan and approving a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. He said McConnell’s plan risked efforts to pass a balanced-budget amendment because it could undercut pressure on Democrats to support such a proposal.

“I think it has some potential to take the wind out of the sails,” he said of McConnell’s plan.

Lee said passing it would send a signal to Democrats that Republicans are willing to let the debt limit rise without extracting hard concessions.

It would be “saying in advance if we don’t get what we want, we’ll just give you what you want,” he said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who is running for president, said Tuesday, "McConnell's plan is an irresponsible surrender to big government, big deficits and continued overspending,” echoing a complaint shared by conservative activists.