Last night, I speculated about a possible “grand bargain” pursuant to which the Democrats would agree to major spending cuts in exchange for Republican agreement to fund the government (i.e., pass a budget) and raise the debt ceiling. Noting the obvious, however, I pointed out that such a bargain will probably be extremely difficult to broker.
For the deal to gain Republican assent, the Democrats presumably would have to agree to massive cuts. But before the Dems would so agree, they would have to believe (1) that the Republicans are willing to shut the government down and see the U.S. default on its debt and (2) that the Republicans would come out of these scenarios relatively unscathed. In the current environment, the Dems might well believe these things with respect to a government shut down. But what about a default with its potentially toxic economic fallout?
Perhaps the Dems should start believing. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham stated on Meet the Press that he “will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until [he] see[s] a plan in place that will deal with our long-term debt obligations, starting with Social Security, a real bipartisan effort to make sure that Social Security stays solvent, adjusting the age, looking at means tests for benefits.” Graham added that on the spending side, he will “not vote for debt ceiling increase unless we go back to 2008 spending levels, cutting discretionary spending.”
As Dan Foster notes at the Corner, the Senate, as it will be constituted starting tomorrow, is most unlikely to pass a debt ceiling increase without Graham’s vote. Thus, if Graham means what he says, there will be significant revenue-side concessions from Democrats.
Even if Graham doesn’t mean what he says, or in the end won’t stick to his guns, such concessions may well be necessary before the House agrees to raise the debt ceiling. For there simply may not be enough Dems and squishy Republicans left in that body to raise the ceiling based merely on token or modest spending cuts.
Significantly, Rep. Allen West of Florida, no one’s idea of a squish, has said he could support raising the debt limit if there were spending caps and changes to entitlement programs. Not all of the new conservative members are likely to agree. For example, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania has said that raising the debt ceiling at all would be “absolutely irresponsible.”
But a deal does not require the support of every last Tea Party oriented Republican. If the dealmakers can win over Allen West, I like their chances. But winning over West will likely require big concessions by the Dems. And the same may even be true when it comes to Lindsey Graham.
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