Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a speech this morning on the Senate floor, praised his Republican counterpart's plan to let President Obama raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. Reid's support for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposal is likely to fuel anger from conservatives who say McConnell's plan destroyed their leverage in the negotiations.
"I commend him for his thoughtful and unique proposal, something that we have to look at very closely," Reid said. "I'm heartened by what I read. This is a serious proposal, and I commend the Republican leader for coming forward with it."
With no deal in sight between Republicans and the White House just weeks before the August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, McConnell unveiled his plan Tuesday. Despite pressure from the conservative wing of the party to hold out for a deal that reduces spending by trillions of dollars, McConnell said that a default—which the Treasury Department warns will happen if no action is taken—is not an option. In the case that the ongoing talks fall apart, this could be a potential back-up plan.
McConnell's strategy leaves the entirety of the debt limit responsibility in the hands of Obama, saving Republicans from having to take a tough vote on the issue.
The plan also received praise from former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who said in a statement that McConnell "is looking to do the right thing."
"The last-case emergency proposal that Senator McConnell outlined yesterday is a smart, forward-looking plan to make clear to all Americans that should we get to August 2nd without an agreement, it is President Obama alone—and not Republicans in Congress—who decides whether to raise the debt limit, and owns the economic consequences of any default," McCain said. "I applaud Senator McConnell for his leadership."
McConnell's complex proposal has received mixed reviews from conservatives and Republicans. The plan was initially met with a round of criticism from conservative commentators and blogs, and conservative Senators who want a combination of spending cuts, caps and a Balanced Budget Amendment in return rejected it outright.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board, historically no fans of Reid, defended the Minority Leader.
"Republicans who say they can use the debt limit to force Democrats to agree to a balanced budget amendment are dreaming," the board's editors wrote. "Even if Mr. Obama gets his debt-limit increase without any spending cuts, he will pay a price for the privilege. ...He'll own the record deficits and fast-rising debt. And he'll own the U.S. credit-rating downgrade to AA if Standard & Poor's so decides."