Debt ceiling deadlock: What will Mitch McConnell do?

at 07:00 AM ET, 07/29/2011


WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate floor prior to a vote at the U.S. Capitol July 27, 2011 in Washington, DC. Republicans and Democrats remain at an impasse in trying to avoid a potential default in the nation's debt payments next week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Win McNamee - GETTY IMAGES)
House Speaker John Boehner’s failure to wrangle 217 votes for his debt ceiling compromise bill on Thursday shocked the political world and left everyone wondering what might come next as the Aug. 2 deadline draws ever closer.

The answer may well lie across the Capitol with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). McConnell, to date, has deferred to the House Republican majority to pass a bill — issuing a series of strong statements expressing support for the Boehner legislation.

And, according to aides familiar with McConnell’s thinking, he remains committed to allowing the vote to play out in the House before making any move in the Senate.

The question is how long he can wait.

House Republican leaders appear to be doing everything in their power to get the votes they need lined up for a vote Friday on Boehner’s bill.

But, their struggles on Thursday — delaying the vote before postponing it entirely — suggest that there is no simple solution(s) to the problem facing Boehner and the other leaders.

If they still can’t pass the bill with the weekend approaching, pressure will mount on McConnell to enter into conversations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the possibility of a compromise moving through the upper chamber.

And, even if Republicans in the House do manage to get the Boehner bill through, Reid and his 52 Democratic caucus members have pledged to kill it, an oath almost certainly strengthened by Thursday’s struggles. To pass the bill through the House, GOP leaders are also likely to have to make it more appealing to conservatives — and hence even less palatable to the Senate.

That means that under almost any circumstances, what McConnell chooses to do next matters — in a major way.

Remember that the Kentucky Republican has been outspoken about his desire for some sort of deal largely out of concern for the political consequences of a default.

In a radio interview earlier this month, McConnell compared the political impact of default to the 1995/1996 government shutdown. “We knew shutting down the government in 1995 was not going to work for us,” said McConnell. “It helped Bill Clinton get reelected. I refuse to help Barack Obama get reelected.”

The question for McConnell — and everyone else following this debt ceiling debate closely — is when (and if) he decides to go beyond simply pledging his support for the House plan and begins to negotiate with Reid in his own right.

Given what happened in the House on Thursday night, McConnell may be the best hope all sides have of a compromise deal before next Tuesday’s deadline.

Bachmann says she won’t talk about family business: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says she won’t discuss what her family business does or the government money it has accepted.

The business, run by her husband Marcus, has been accused of trying to convert gay men to become straight — a service Marcus Bachmann has acknowledged it provides upon request.

And Michele Bachmann said she doesn’t have to answer more questions about it.

“I’m running for the presidency of the United States; my husband is not running for the presidency, neither are my children, neither is our business,” she said at a luncheon at the National Press Club.

Final draft for California map: The Citizens Redistricting Commission is California out with its final draft map, and the map looks a lot like a previous version (detailed by The Fix here).

The main change comes in a South Los Angeles district where the commission has restored the voting power of black and Latino voters.

Republicans said the new map was slightly better for them than the old one, which imperiled as many as four or five of the state’s Republican members.

More on this from The Fix later today, after we’ve had a chance to run the numbers.

SEIU targets Brown with small buy: The Service Employees International Union is going after Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) with a five-figure radio buy.

The ad hits Brown for staying silent in the debt ceiling debate. The senator has said that a deal should be struck that includes spending cuts, but he has yet to endorse a specific plan.

A Brown spokeswoman responded: “This is just more negative attacks from special interests who have an interest in protecting the status quo.”

Fixbits:

Business leaders say a deal must be reached not just before the Aug. 2 deadline, but by the end of this week.

On her voter registration form in 2001, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), whose parents are Indian-American, listed her race as white.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is going up with a significant ad buy for the special election in Nevada’s 2nd district. Meanwhile, GOP nominee Mark Amodei says he opposes Boehner’s plan.

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) confirms he will run in a new congressional district created in the San Joaquin Valley. McNerney is drawn into another district with Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) in draft maps created by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Must-reads:

The impact of redistricting on 2012” — Salena Zito, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Time for the grown-ups to enter the debt showdown” — Washington Post editorial board

Undecideds endure tough hours of lobbying on debt” — David Fahrenthold and Roz Helderman, Washington Post

Read more on PostPolitics.com

White House: Debt fight could ruin Christmas

Interactive: What are the Senate’s options?

 
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