2010 GOP coalition breaks down over debt limit

at 06:30 AM ET, 07/14/2011

The Republican coalition of business and tea party supporters that spurred the party to nearly unprecedented gains in 2010 is breaking down over the debt limit debate.

At the center of the breakdown is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose plan to hand responsibility for raising the debt limit to President Obama has proved a complete non-starter among both tea party backers and the conservative base, groups that want the GOP to reject any increase.

Meanwhile, business interests are pushing hard for Congress to raise the limit, for fear of economic consequences. The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and other like-minded groups say the debt limit needs to be raised to avoid economic calamity, and the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board has embraced McConnell’s controversial plan.

In the end, the debate is leading to the outcome that Republicans feared: a fractured party and base heading into a presidential election year.

The response from the right to McConnell’s plan was swift on Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), in remarks that were otherwise respectful of the leader, suggested that McConnell’s proposal has the effect of “saying in advance, if we don’t get what we want, we’ll just give you what you want.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) echoed Lee, saying the proposal “offers [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid and Obama everything they want — a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit with no spending cuts or reforms.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who is running for president, said the proposal amounted to a “surrender.”

The right-wing blogosphere was incredulous — in many cases responding in terms not suitable for a family newspaper, or blog.

At the same time, McConnell has support from some GOP leaders and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Democratic leaders say they are amenable to the idea. With business searching for whatever plan will lead to a raise in the debt limit, McConnell’s appears to be a viable option under which some Republicans could vote to pass the buck without actually voting to increase the debt limit.

Of course, there would also be no spending cuts attached. That’s not going to please the tea party forces, which see the debt limit fight as the time to push for big reductions in government spending and even entitlement reform.

McConnell appears to be, for lack of a better phrase, at his wit’s end. With no other proposal sparking much support and his own party adamantly against raising taxes, he sees passing responsibility to raise the debt limit to Obama as the only escape.

In an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday, he said a debt-limit increase would likely get no Republican support right now. He also said that his idea is the smart one for Republicans politically, because allowing a government default would “give the president an opportunity to blame us for the bad economy.”

The problem for McConnell is that the tea party wing of the party isn’t all that interested in giving the GOP nominee the best chance in 2012. It wants cuts, first and foremost, and damn the torpedoes. That’s the attitude the tea party was essentially founded on.

McConnell’s proposal and justifications amount to an acknowledgement that the political endgame has gotten away from the GOP. Whether through any fault of their own or not, Republicans are in a corner when it comes to a default, and as his colleagues suggest, McConnell is ceding major ground.

It’s becoming clear that he can’t please both sides of his party’s new coalition. The question is how it gets resolved, and how deep the wounds will be going forward.

Walker’s disapproval up: On the heels of the start of a series of recall campaigns for GOP state legislators in Wisconsin, a new poll shows Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) disapproval reaching new heights.

The University of Wisconsin Badger Poll shows 59 percent of Wisconsinites now disapprove of Walker’s job performance. His decision to push through controversial legislation curbing the collective bargaining rights of unions has earned his party a significant backlash.

There has been some talk that Democrats may try to recall Walker, but they have to wait until he’s been in office for one year.

The poll was conducted in late June and early July.

Poll finds GOP not so averse to tax increases: A new poll from Gallup suggests many Republicans would be open to at least some tax increases to close the budget deficit.

The poll shows just 26 percent of Republicans say deficit reduction should be done only through spending cuts.

At the same time, they still think spending cuts should make up the lion’s share of cuts, with 67 percent urging either mostly or exclusively using spending cuts.

It should be noted, though, that agreeing which tax increases are okay is entirely more difficult than just agreeing that tax increases, generally, should be part of the effort.

Overall, just 11 percent of Americans say deficit reduction should be done mostly or exclusively through tax increases, while 32 percent say the split should be even.

Fixbits:

Bob Vander Plaats, whose Family Leader group is reponsible for the controversial marriage vow, criticizes Mitt Romney for not signing it.

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) old church reportedly belongs to a council of churches whose doctrine says the Pope is the Antichrist.

Obama adviser David Axelrod needles Romney on the debt debate.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) raised $500,000 in the second quarter and has $1.1 million in the bank for an increasingly likely Senate bid.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) reaches out to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) as Perry weighs a presidential bid.

Tim Pawlenty releases a video talking about faith.

A tea party convention is canceled due to low registration numbers.

Must-reads:

Can the moderate Huntsman succeed in a red-meat era?” — Josh Kraushaar, National Journal

The Obama-Boehner embrace: what does it mean?” — Jim Sullivan, National Journal

A look at the sorry state of the Federal Protective Service” — Joe Davidson, Washington Post

GOP’s no-tax stance is outside the political mainstream” — Nate Silver, New York Times

Read more on PostPolitics.com

Fact Checker: Paul Ryan’s misleading historical analogy in the debt limit talks

Two top Republicans clash over debt plan

2Chambers: McConnell warns default could ‘destroy’ GOP brand

 
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