Some liberal House Democrats on Friday voiced concerns that their leadership is embracing Kentucky GOP Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeking challenger to McConnell as Senate GOP leader: report Budget chairman: Debt ceiling fight 'a ridiculous position to be in' Buckle up for more Trump, courtesy of the Democratic Party MORE's debt-ceiling proposal to the detriment of the party.
The Democrats fear that McConnell’s 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.
“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 you’re going to do something like that, you shouldn’t have to [do it three times] and all this B.S.,” DeFazio added. “[All that's needed is] a one-time vote.”
Rep. Jim MoranJames (Jim) Patrick MoranThe Hill's Top Lobbyists 2020 Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Star-studded cast to perform play based on Mueller report MORE sounded a similar warning Friday. The Virginia Democrat said the McConnell proposal “is not about what’s in the best interest of the country” but about “weakening the Democratic Party for the next decade.”
“We’re 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 doesn’t act soon.
“They’re figuring we’ve got to raise the debt ceiling, so we don’t have any choice but to do it on [Republicans’] terms,” he said. “That’s why we’re 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 we’ll be able to respond,” Larson said.
Democratic leaders said they’re 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 doesn’t 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.
“There’s 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.”