Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) idea for a “back-up plan” on raising the country’s debt ceiling received the tentative support of another congressional leader Thursday when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he would be open to considering the proposal.
“Mitch described his proposal as a ‘last-ditch effort’ in case we’re unable to do anything else,” Boehner said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. “And what may look like something less-than-optimal today, if we’re unable to get to an agreement, might look pretty good a couple of weeks from now. But I think it’s worth keeping on the table. There are a lot of options that people have floated, and frankly, I think it’s an option that may be worthy at some point.”
McConnell’s “Plan B” on the debt limit, unveiled by the top Senate Republican on Tuesday ahead of a negotiating session at the White House, would allow the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling to be raised in three separate stages while putting the political burden of doing so on President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Boehner’s remarks Thursday put him at odds with his deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who Wednesday shot down the McConnell plan in a statement declaring that none of the plans currently being floated would be able to secure the 218 votes necessary to pass the House.
The proposal has garnered the tentative support of some Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Wednesday cast the McConnell plan as a step in the right direction, noting that while they have not yet seen the specifics of the proposal, McConnell’s announcement was a sign that the Kentucky Republican acknowledges that failing to raise the debt ceiling is not an option.
In the days since McConnell unveiled his proposal, he has reportedly been working behind-the-scenes with Reid toward a potential compromise that would pair the McConnell plan with the enactment of $1.5 billion in spending cuts; a bipartisan panel of 12 lawmakers would then work to identify additional deficit savings.
Reid declined to give further details of that proposal at a Thursday afternoon news conference with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, saying only that “it's best to try to move this down the field very slowly and make sure every step of the way is covered."
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.