* The GOP’s problem: There’s no bridging the gap between Tea Party and reality:
Why do the Tea Party and the right adamantly oppose Mitch McConnell’s proposal to transfer control of the debt ceiling to the president as a way out of an impasse that many think is badly damaging the GOP?
The answer, paradoxically, lies in the beauty of the McConnell plan: It was crafted to allow Republicans to repeatedly vote against raising the debt ceiling without actually stopping it from being raised.
McConnell and other GOP leaders know full well the debt ceiling must be hiked. But they also know full well that this is entirely unacceptable to large swaths of the base who now see this as their number one ideological cause celebre, on a par with the now-forgotten drive to repeal Obamacare. So his plan tries to solve both these problems at once. It provides for Republicans to vote to “disapprove” of each debt ceiling hike the President pursues. But since they need a veto proof majority to block each debt limit hike, those “disapproval” votes won’t actually stop the hikes from happening — keeping the business community happy and averting economic and political disaster.
The problem for GOP leaders, however, is that the Tea Party and the right are dead serious about this stopping-the-debt-ceiling-hike thing — reality and the consequences be damned. Solid majorities of Republican voters and Tea Partyers don’t even think failure to raise it will be a problem. Symbolic votes to “disapprove” of debt ceiling hikes aren’t enough. Anything short of stopping the debt ceiling from going up is unacceptable. The McConnell plan would surrender the GOP’s ability to do this. Therefore it’s a total cave-in.
Business leaders and sane GOP leaders want the debt ceiling raised and understand that failure will be catastrophic. The Tea Party wants a hike blocked at all costs. The problem in a nutshell is that there’s no putting that ideological genie back in the bottle. One party is going to have to walk out of this situation not getting what it wants. Hint: That party’s name begins with the letter “T.”
* Right wing groups up the pressure: Illustrating my point above, Mike Allen reports that a coalition of right-wing groups has written a letter to GOP leaders putting them on notice: The Tea Party and the Club for Growth will withdraw support from any lawmaker who backs the McConnell “cut, run, and hide” plan — even if they oppose debt ceiling hikes later.
* Draft Elizabeth Warren effort picks up steam: Since the Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched its Draft Elizabeth Warren for Senate effort yesterday, more than 22,000 people have signed on, the PCCC tells me, and the group has raised nearly $30,000 for her campaign.
“Like Paul Wellstone, Elizabeth Warren is a progressive icon who is willing to stand up to corporate power,” PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor emails. “If Elizabeth Warren runs, she will have vast grassroots support from progressives, and these growing numbers reflect that.”
* Warren remains coy about Senate run: In an interview with Jake Tapper, she declines to give any hints about her intentions.
* Could debt ceiling vote become issue in GOP primaries? And here’s Senator Richard Lugar going up on the air to counter the Club for Growth’s recent ad blitz against him over the debt ceiling, a clear sign he’s taking the threat of a primary — and his vulnerability if he supports a debt ceiling hike — seriously.
* Quiet progress towards a deal: Details are in short supply, but Rosalind Helderman and Paul Kane report that there has been quiet progress towards a deal on McConnell’s escape-hatch proposal.
* GOP aides embrace the inevitable: The House is set to vote today on a doomed proposal including spending caps and a balanced budget amendment. But the real action will come after this vote. GOP aides will only say so anonymously, but they are now acknowledging that the McConnell proposal, which will likely be voted on later this week, has now become “plan A.”
* White House hammers away at “cut, cap and balance”: The White House keeps up its unusually aggressive assault on the proposal set for today’s vote, describing it as an unhinged plan that would paradoxically absolve leaders of the need to make tough choices and would shred the safety net beyond recognition.
Also: As Dylan Matthews notes, the White House is arguing that the immediate spending cuts in the proposal risk hurting the economy, another sign that the White House wants a deficit deal under which cuts are backloaded to avoid immediate damage.
* David Brooks continues raging against the right: Conservatives are furious with Brooks for accurately describing their anti-tax fanaticism, and today Brooks trains his fire on Grover Norquist:
Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform has been instrumental in every recent G.O.P. setback. He was a Newt Gingrich strategist in the 1990s, a major Jack Abramoff companion in the 2000s and he enforced the no-compromise orthodoxy that binds the party today. Norquist is the Zelig of Republican catastrophe. His method is always the same. He enforces rigid ultimatums that make governance, or even thinking, impossible.
* GOP at risk of losing independents? One reason that columnists like Brooks are sounding the alarm: As the nonpartisan Charlie Cook notes today, the GOP’s focus on pleasing the base in this fight has now put them at grave risk of losing independents.
* Ad wars heat up in Wisconsin recall fight: The Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert has an interesting look at the seemingly unprecedented saturation of the airwaves that has resulted from the recall wars, and what it means.
* Big Wisconsin race today: The election to recall Dem state senator Dave Hansen is set for today, and Hansen is expected to survive easily — the first test of whether fleeing the state will result in the recall of any Dems.
* And an openly gay judge makes history: Yesterday the Senate made history by confirming the first openly gay judge to serve on the Federal bench, and Dana Milbank gets this exactly right:
The remarkable thing about what happened on the Senate floor Monday night was that it was utterly unremarkable.