Republicans are already losing the debt ceiling fight. Sen. Mitch McConnell was asked repeatedly on ABC’s This Week if he would shut down the government, and he wouldn’t back the idea.
Transcript from ABC’s This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the question is, how will you follow through on your strategy? And, you know, there are — a lot of your allies are worried about the — about that prospect. The Wall Street Journal editorial page said the political result will be far worse if Republicans start this fight only to cave in the end. You can’t take a hostage you aren’t prepared to shoot. Do the two GOP leaders have a better strategy today than they did in 2011?
And I guess, you know, you’re hearing that phrase more and more now, shoot the hostage. Are you prepared to do it, to see the country default, if the president won’t sign the spending cuts you demand?
MCCONNELL: Well, look, it’s not even necessary to get to that point. Why aren’t we trying to settle the problem? Why aren’t we trying to do something about reducing spending? We know we need to do it. When are we going to do it? We don’t need to use the deadline. We could go through the regular order. Congress could pass bills. They could have conferences between the House and Senate. The president could be engaged. I mean, he’s good at campaigning…
(Not satisfied with McConnell’s non-answer, later in the interview Stephanopoulous asked him again.)
STEPHANOPOULOS: I accept that that’s your point of view, but the division still seems to be there. So I’ll go back to my original question. How far are you willing to take this strategy? Is — is it acceptable to you that the government default if the president won’t agree to discuss spending cuts over the debt limit?
MCCONNELL: My answer is, hopefully we don’t need to get to that point. The president surely must know we’re spending way too much. So why don’t we do something about reducing spending?
The only reason these deadlines become significant, George, is because the Democratic majority in the Senate and the president of the United States don’t want to cut any spending of any consequence. They don’t want to do anything on the entitlement side.
You know, 60 percent of what we spend every year is interest on the national debt and very popular entitlement programs. Until we address the entitlement programs and make the eligibility for entitlements meet the demographics of our country, we can’t ever solve this problem.
If we want to have the kind of country for our children and grandchildren that our — that our parents left behind for us, the time to do that is now. Ironically, divided government is the perfect time to do it, because you can pull both sides together and do things that need to be done for the future, and the American people will understand, since you did it together, it was absolutely necessary.
Instead of saying that he would support a government shutdown, McConnell has already staked out the weak kneed position of backing off the threat of a shutdown while blaming Democrats for refusing to cut spending. McConnell gave every indication that his party is repeating that all bark and no bite tactics that have led to them talking a tough game, but repeatedly caving to the president over the last 18 months.
What Republicans never seem to understand is that the American people always support spending cuts in the abstract. When they are asked if they support cutting spending, the vast majority of people will always say yes. The problem occurs when people are asked about cutting specific programs. By wide margin, the public does not support cuts in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. The left supports defense cuts, but most on the right do not.
This isn’t matter of Democrats not supporting cuts. For decades this country has not been able to agree on what should be cut.
McConnell can declare all he wants that there will be no new revenue, but he and his party are going to lose that fight. Obama’s balanced approach remains extremely popular. The president is going to use the same argument on the debt ceiling that won him reelection and almost everything he wanted on the fiscal cliff.
Republicans are playing a very weak hand, and if leaders like McConnell refuse to shut down the government, they’ve already lost.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor, who is White House Press Pool, and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association