A CNN poll released Thursday shows that nearly two thirds of the American people support the "Cut, Cap, Balance" plan that passed the House of Representatives Tuesday, throwing a monkey wrench into President Barack Obama’s plan for a deal of grand design.
It is still iffy whether or not " Cut, Cap, and Balance" will pass the Senate when and if it comes up for a vote on Saturday, but the momentum has clearly shifted in the debate. Obama, who previously took a very strong position against any temporary deals, has reversed course—even going so far as to suggest he might extend the August 2 deadline for raising the debt limit. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should Congress raise the debt limit?]
Since reaching the debt limit is supposed to be triggered by spending and borrowing, it is an open question as to how Obama can “extend” the deadline—unless, as it now appears, his administration simply made it up in the first place. What does appear true is that the White House is trying to buy time to save the “deal of grand design” approach, which would include tax increases, amorphous sending cuts, and perhaps even new spending before it is eclipsed by Cut, Cap, and Balance.
Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who is a member of the “Gang of Six,” whose outline may be the basis of the deal of grand design, said Thursday that he expects to have legislative language for his proposal by the end of this week or, at the latest, by the beginning of next week—once the Democratic staff on the Senate Budget Committee get through writing the bill. On the other hand, reports the Washington Times, Coburn also said he now believes that Cut, Cap, and Balance should be the final deal and that anything else cannot be completed and passed by August 2. [See a slide show of 6 consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised.]
As a further diversion, news reports that the president and House Republicans were in negotiations over a potential deal to cut $3 trillion in spending over 10 years in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling were labeled by sources close to the House GOP leadership as flatly untrue, with one Capitol Hill staffer going so far as to label the idea that such talks were underway “a delaying tactic” intended by the White House to “kill” the momentum that is quickly gathering around "Cut, Cap, and Balance."
The Republicans have given the president a bipartisan compromise plan: He gets—before August 2—an increase in the debt limit in exchange for a simple plan to balance the budget over the next 10 years. The president and congressional Democratic leaders are still dug in, trying to pull a rabbit out of their hat that will get them what the political coalition behind them demands: new taxes, new spending, and no real cuts. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]
It's not surprising that the American people are balking; they are beginning to understand, as Coburn has pointed out, that you could cut spending by $9 trillion and the federal government would still be, by some estimates, 63 percent larger than it was in 2001. It’s looking more and more like the president was bluffing and—the House having called his bluff by passing "Cut, Cap, and Balance"—he is either going to have to fold or show the country he bet the farm on a pair of sixes.