Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell's Bizarro Negotiation

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JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 29, 2011

Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell's Bizarro Negotiation

Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are trying to strike a debt ceiling compromise:

But as long as Boehner struggles with his own members, the balance of power will shift back to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has been negotiating with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“There is no question who would own a default after this episode, and that weakens the speaker’s position,” said a Senate Democratic leadership aide. “Reid now has [the] upper hand in pushing ahead with his Senate plan — possibly with a couple tweaks to get McConnell on board, but nothing that compromises our bottom line. Boehner, in turn, has little choice but to acquiesce to relying on Democrats to pass a bipartisan Senate plan through the House.”

Reid announced Friday that he will move forward with his proposal, which calls for just one vote to raise the debt limit, about $2.2 trillion in spending cuts and savings, and the creation of a special legislative committee to recommend a broader deficit-reduction package.

Reid invited McConnell to craft a deal.

To win Republican support, Democrats are considering adding stronger trigger mechanisms to move forward the joint committee’s recommendations. If the committee cannot reach agreement, one fail-safe under discussion could be directing Congress to cast an up-or-down vote on the Senate Gang of Six proposal, a $3.7 trillion package, according to Democratic officials. 

The really weird thing about this negotiation is that Reid's bill is to the right of McConnell's. McConnell does require two extra votes to embarrass the Democrats. But Reid's plan requires $2.5 trillion worth of spending cuts, only half of which are the Afghanistan drawdown. Theoretically, Reid could "compromise" with McConnell by reducing his spending cuts in half.

I don't expect that. Both Reid and McConnell have signaled a willingness to accept a broad range of outcomes that ends the debt ceiling crisis. They're going to try to craft something that can pass the House and avoid deposing John Boehner. Still, I would like to see Reid propose a compromise plan that consists of accepting McConnell's proposal in toto.

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posted in: jonathan chait, mcconnell, harry reid, john boehner, mitch mcconnell, nevada, senate

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