McConnell Changes Course on Debt Ceiling - Will Back Cut, Cap and Balance

Republicans united behind Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Cut, Cap and Balance Act could lead to victory on the deficit.

By + More

Kentucky Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who earlier this week was pilloried by conservatives when he proposed giving President Barack Obama the authority to increase the debt ceiling unless Congress voted its disapproval, won plaudits from those same critics Thursday when he became a co-sponsor of the Senate's "Cut, Cap and Balance Act."

The Act, S. 1340, originally proposed by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and McConnell's Kentucky colleague Sen. Rand Paul, is the only plan to yet be offered by either party that actually cuts the deficit, imposes statutory caps on federal spending and, to prevent the current problem from reoccurring, requires passage of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

McConnell's support for Cut, Cap and Balance came less than a day after, according to some reports, Obama angrily stormed out of a meeting at the White House with congressional leaders called to find a way to increase the debt limit and prevent the U.S. government's default in early August.

That meeting, a source close to a member of the House leadership said, "Was the most tense meeting of the week," during which House Speaker John Boehner "challenged the president to offer real spending cuts."

[See political cartoons about the GOP]

Boehner reportedly said that "the gimmicks and accounting tricks that Washington has used for decades are not applicable here," only to be challenged on the assertion by White House officials, who attempted to justify budgetary gimmicks.

"We're not doing that anymore," Boehner said.

Turning back to cut, cap and balance—which is expected to be introduced in the House by week's end—winning McConnell's support for the measure is a major victory for the legislation's backers. "Before today, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act had enjoyed widespread support, but had not yet been endorsed by any of the top Republican leaders in either chamber," said National Taxpayers' Union Vice President Andrew Moylan. "Today, that has changed, and it's a signal that Republicans on Capitol Hill are coalescing around Cut, Cap, and Balance as the best plan in the debt ceiling debate."

"For a debate that has been marked by tremendous uncertainty and lack of coordination by conservatives, there are now signs that everyone is on or at least close to the same page: Cut, Cap, and Balance," Moylan said, describing the legislative proposal as "the only comprehensive and conservative answer to our debt disaster because it provides the short-term (cuts), medium-term (cap), and long-term (balance) solutions necessary to maintain America's AAA bond rating and return our economy to prosperity and growth."

[See political cartoons about the budget and the deficit]

McConnell's decision to get on board with cut, cap and balance is the clearest indication yet that the Republicans are holding together against Obama's demand that any increase in the debt ceiling be accompanied by an increase in revenues to the federal treasury, increases that would be found by changing existing tax laws rather than through economic growth.

Having blinked at the beginning of the week, the GOP ends it once again united and with Obama, seemingly, headed towards the ropes.

  • Read more about deficit and national debt.
  • Slide Show: 6 Consequences if the Debt Ceiling Isn't Raised.
  • Slide Show: 6 Ways to Raise the Debt Ceiling.