With leaders on opposite ends of the Capitol currently gathering support for two competing plans for raising the federal debt-ceiling, the two frontrunners in Virginia’s marquee U.S. Senate race are also on opposite sides.
Former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) would support the plan being advanced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), though Kaine said he would prefer to see a more comprehensive solution. Former Sen. George Allen (R), not surprisingly, doesn’t like Reid’s plan. But he also wouldn’t back House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) measure that is due for a House vote Thursday evening, a position that puts Allen in line with some conservative activists but in the clear minority among elected Republicans.
“George Allen believes that any solution to the debt crisis must include ironclad spending cuts, enforceable caps on spending and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution,” said Allen spokesman Bill Riggs.
“We will not support any approach that does not include a balanced budget amendment or delays decisions on spending cuts until after the debt ceiling has been raised. Washington cannot be trusted to police itself and rein in the explosion of government spending we’ve seen in the last three years. A balanced budget amendment with ironclad spending cuts is the only long-term solution that will bring accountability to Washington and force the federal government to get spending under control. None of the plans currently being discussed accomplish these goals.”
Boehner’s plan does require a balanced budget amendment vote in the House, and a subsequent vote in the Senate if it passes, but it does not actually require the amendment to be enacted in order for the debt ceiling to increase. For that reason, among others, some conservative groups like Club for Growth have come out in opposition to the Boehner plan.
But other key Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have dismissed linking the debt-ceiling increase to a balanced budget amendment as a bad idea. And Senate Democrats and President Obama have made clear they would not support such a plan.
More importantly, given Allen’s criteria, Boehner’s proposal puts off some of the spending reductions to be determined by a special bipartisan committee later this year. (Here’s a useful side-by-side comparison of Reid and Boehner’s plans.)
Allen faces a competitive Republican primary, with multiple candidates alleging that he is insufficiently conservative. One opponent, former Virginia Tea Party Patriots head Jamie Radtke, is also against the Boehner plan. She tweeted this week: “Call Boehnor [sic] and tell him his debt deal proposal won’t fly! It won’t prevent a bond rating downgrade. Unacceptable.”
Kaine, meanwhile, has been advocating a “balanced approach” similar to the one being advocated by President Obama that would include spending cuts as well as tax increases and investments in key areas. Reid’s plan does not include new revenues, but Kaine would back it in the absence of a better option.
“Governor Kaine believes the priority right now is avoiding the disastrous consequences of default and/or a credit rating downgrade, either of which will cost the government billions in additional spending and risk sending our economy into another recession,” said Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine. “The Reid plan falls short of the comprehensive, balanced approach Governor Kaine has called for, but, in the interest of protecting our economy, Governor Kaine would support Senator Reid’s approach as it stands now over the Boehner plan because it does more to reduce the deficit and has a better chance of preventing a credit rating downgrade nationally and in Virginia.”
Kaine would back the Reid plan, Hoffine said, in the interest of finding “common ground.”