Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

McConnell Outlines Three-Step Debt Contingency Plan

Tom Williams/Roll Call

According to GOP aides, McConnell was wary of another agreement that resembled the deal struck by Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in April to avert a government shutdown. The deal was touted as saving $38 billion from current-year spending, but the Congressional Budget Office ultimately scored the bill as saving only $350 million through September.

The framework McConnell announced Tuesday would have a vote this month for a $700 billion increase, a second this fall worth $900 billion and a third next summer for another $900 billion. It was not immediately clear whether House Republicans or Senate Democrats would get behind such a plan. A Democratic aide noted that such an “out-of-the-box” proposal and its Senate-centric nature might prove complicated in the House. Because of the procedure surrounding resolutions of disapproval, in order for the plan to work, it would need the support of a two-thirds majority to approve by overturning a presidential veto.

Reid did not reject the proposal when asked about it Tuesday, but he indicated he didn’t know much about it.

McConnell’s announcement Tuesday was not based exclusively on deadline pressure.

Apparently, after Monday’s contentious White House meeting, McConnell decided he did not want to take a backseat in the ongoing budget negotiations that have been dominated by Obama and House GOP leaders.

In the nearly two-hour-long White House meeting Monday afternoon during which leaders reviewed savings found last month by a group led by Vice President Joseph Biden, McConnell asked only one question, according to a Republican source familiar with the talks.

“How much does the Biden plan actually cut from next year’s discretionary spending budget?” the Kentucky Republican asked the room.

Obama’s Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew told him, “$2 billion.”

A second source close to the original Biden group confirmed this number.

McConnell grew frustrated in the closed-door meeting, complaining that such a sum was too small, given the scale of the savings Members on both sides of the aisle were hoping for. McConnell’s displeasure spilled over to the Senate floor Tuesday morning, when he attacked Obama for presenting Republicans with “gimmicks” instead of solutions.

“The hope here was that budget gimmicks and deferred decision-making they actually support would have the appearance of serious belt-tightening. But the practical effect would have been, at most, about a couple of billion dollars in cuts up front with empty promises of more to follow,” McConnell said early Tuesday morning.

“President has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default. Republicans choose none of the above,” he continued.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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