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“They didn’t come up here worried about the brand,” Graham said when asked about McConnell’s statement. “They came up here worried about the country.”
Graham said he could consider the proposal if nothing else gets through the House.
“If the House can’t produce anything, I don’t want to just default for the hell of it,” he said.
McConnell did have supporters, particularly among his leadership team.
“Remember, if everything else fails and everybody’s great ideas don’t come to pass and it’s the day before Aug. 2, something has to be done,” Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) said. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also strongly backed the last-resort idea as “a smart, forward-looking plan” that would put the onus on Obama.
House Republicans, however, warned the plan would not fly — at least not yet.
Establishment allies of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) conceded in the Speaker’s Lobby on Wednesday that McConnell’s plan was “dead on arrival” in the House, even as Boehner has praised his Senate counterpart’s work.
Boehner has not stated specifically that he endorses the plan, while Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) warned neither the McConnell plan nor any other could yet pass the House.
“Currently, there is not a single debt limit proposal that can pass the House of Representatives,” Cantor said in a statement Wednesday, challenging Obama to detail a $3 trillion package of cuts and no revenue increases.
Other Republicans and Democrats had lukewarm comments about the plan as a last resort, but there remains a bipartisan yearning for a package that includes upfront spending cuts and long-term reforms to deal with the debt.
Top Democratic leaders from both chambers huddled Wednesday on the Senate side of the Capitol before yet another White House meeting and mulled using McConnell’s idea as part of a hybrid approach — paired with spending cuts and possibly a new fiscal commission being considered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
“We could couple it with other things,” House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said. But Democrats don’t have a consensus on what those “other things” might be.
The new fiscal commission would have “teeth,” Democrats said, including expedited floor consideration, and would consist of Members of Congress. But the GOP blocked a similar proposal last year.
Reid earlier Wednesday praised McConnell’s framework on the floor as a “unique proposal, something that we have to look at very closely. I’m heartened by what I read. This is a serious proposal, and I commend the Republican leader for coming forward with it.”
Van Hollen, meanwhile, called out the GOP for attacking McConnell’s proposal.
“You have Republicans trashing a proposal put forward by the Republican leader in the Senate. I think people need to wake up to the fact that these guys message their sins: ‘We’re prepared to take the entire economy, put millions of jobs at risk, unless we get things 100 percent our way,’” Van Hollen said.
But some Democrats also trashed the McConnell idea as an abdication of leadership.