Conservatives mobilize to kill McConnell fallback debt plan

A coalition of conservative groups claiming to represent “millions of Americans” has sent a letter to GOP lawmakers blasting a fallback plan to raise the national debt limit.

The scathing criticism of the plan, unveiled last week by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), bolstered conservative senators who have voiced their opposition.

“We write in strong opposition to Sen. Mitch McConnell's ‘contingency plan’ to raise the debt ceiling and pledge the use of every tool at our coalition's disposal to see to its defeat,” the groups wrote in an open letter to Republican lawmakers dated July 18.

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Since McConnell introduced his proposal last week, he has been in negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to improve its chances for passage.

But conservative groups want to kill it immediately.

“In one fell swoop, it abdicates congressional responsibility by granting the president the unilateral authority to raise the debt ceiling and undermines our ability to secure real policy changes that will alter our unsustainable fiscal path,” the groups wrote.

Several groups that work with Tea Party activists signed the letter: American Majority Action, Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Let Freedom Ring and RedState.com.

They warned GOP leaders would ignore the conservative political mandate of 2010 by deferring authority to raise the debt limit to President Obama.

“Our nation stands at a crossroads and your constituents did not elect you to stay on our current course and hit cruise control,” the groups wrote. “The debt ceiling debate has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to steer America in a direction of fiscal restraint and sustainability. We will not sit idly by while that opportunity is frittered away with a plan to avoid hard policy choices in favor of election-year campaign fodder.”

Legislation McConnell introduced last week would give Obama nearly unilateral authority to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion in three tranches. Congress could block the requests only by passing resolutions of disapproval.

The plan would give Obama nearly unfettered power to increase borrowing authority because he could veto any resolutions of disapproval. Opponents would have to muster two-thirds support in both chambers to override him.

McConnell and Reid have since discussed amending it by attaching $1.5 trillion in spending cuts and setting up a special congressional committee to assemble a deficit-reduction package that would receive guaranteed floor votes.

The conservative groups threatened to lower the congressional rating of any lawmaker who voted for that plan.

“Those of us with congressional scorecards commit to designating any vote on the McConnell-Reid-Pelosi ‘Cut, Run, and Hide’ plan as a ‘key vote’ that will carry the heaviest weight possible,” they wrote.

Conservatives are pushing lawmakers to support instead the "cut, cap and balance" bill, which would require Congress pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution before raising the debt limit.

“The "Cut, Cap, and Balance" plan to cut our deficit, cap spending, and pass a strong Balanced Budget Amendment is a proposal to create a sustainable fiscal future for generations to come,” the groups wrote.