“It’s an admission by Mitch McConnell that the votes won’t be there on the GOP side to do anything. They’re looking for a way out,” says Stan Collender, a longtime congressional budget analyst and partner at Qorvis Communications in Washington. “It puts the onus for raising the debt limit directly on President Obama.”
With both sides in deeply entrenched positions – Republicans refusing tax increases and Democrats refusing deep spending or entitlement cuts without them – default on the national debt is an outcome that some congressional leaders are taking more seriously.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania proposed legislation requiring the Obama administration to come up with contingency plans to prioritize payments to avoid default after Aug. 2. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has proposed invoking an obscure clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution as a basis for giving the president unilateral authority to raise the debt limit. [Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph did not list the correct part of government documents to which the president could refer.]
McConnell’s proposed legislative mechanism gives the House and Senate the option to defeat the proposed increase in the debt ceiling with a joint resolution disapproving of the president’s request that has little chance of success.