McCain to Republicans: Forget about any more crazy debt ceiling hostage taking

Democrats are hoping that the willingness of John McCain and other Republicans to break with GOP leaders during last week’s filibuster fight and support Obama nominations bodes well for future battles. They are hoping for an emerging schism among Republicans that means a bloc of GOP Senators can be peeled off and induced to enter into genuinely constructive negotiations with Dems to avert a debt ceiling and government shutdown crisis.

So it is noteworthy that in an interview, McCain has now said the American people will not put up with another round of GOP debt limit and government shutdown “shenanigans.” McCain also bluntly warned House Republicans against using the debt limit fight to gain the repeal of Obamacare, which he said “is not going to happen.”

McCain made the claims in an interview with radio host Michael Medved late Friday (audio was sent my way by his show). Asked for his take on the coming debt limit battle, McCain said:

“Some of my Republican colleagues are already saying we won’t raise the debt limit unless there’s repeal of Obamacare. I’d love to repeal Obamacare, but I promise you that’s not going to happen on the debt limit. So some would like to set up another one of these shutdown-the-government threats. And most Americans are really tired of those kinds of shenanigans here in Washington.”

Asked if he would demand any concessions in exchange for a debt limit hike, McCain continued:

“What I would like to see is serious negotiations to eliminate the sequester, and progress on facing up to this deficit that is sooner or later going to harm our children and our grandchildren.”

This confirms that McCain — and perhaps a few more Republican Senators who seem to have joined the new Compromise Caucus — are heading for a direct collision with House Republicans over the coming debt limit and budget battles. Democrats are hoping to win over McCain and others in the Compromise Caucus to support a no-strings-attached debt limit hike, or at least to enter into real negotiations to replace the sequester.

McCain, of course, was already inclined to enter into talks to replace the sequester, since he’s a “defense hawk” who wants to protect the military from sequester cuts. But since McCain and others broke with the GOP leadership over the filibuster, Dems have been increasingly optimistic that a real bloc of Republicans can be induced into serious budget talks — enough to create a GOP schism. McCain’s suggestion that he hopes the debt limit crisis can be defused by real negotiations to replace the sequester will likely be greeted well by Dems. It dovetails with what they’ve been saying publicly.

“There is a group of Republicans — led by Senator McCain — who are very interested in ending the gridlock and working together to solve problems,” Senator Patty Murray, a key member of the Dem leadership, said the other day. She added that Dems are “really hopeful” that there will be a gain in influence within the party among Republicans “who prefer common-sense bipartisanship over chaos and brinkmanship.”

Today White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated that the White House would not negotiate over the debt limit. Yet all signs are that House conservatives are expecting the GOP leadership to stage another confrontation over it. The Compromise Caucus’s willingness to break with the GOP’s party’s relentless obstructionism has raised hopes among Dems that there is a sizable bloc of Republicans that has had it with their party’s unremitting hostility to basic governing compromises. The debt limit battle — in which Republicans are preparing to demand concessions for a debt limit hike GOP leaders have already conceded is necessary to avoid widespread damage to the U.S. economy — would seem to be another arena in which this dynamic may well show up again.

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.
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Greg Sargent | July 22, 2013