GOP Stumbles Over Surprise Dem Debt Limit Offer

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Republicans have been tight-lipped so far about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s surprise offer of $2.7 trillion in spending cuts — and no tax revenue — to raise the debt limit through 2012.

There are a few reasons for that. First, as Red State’s Erick Erickson subtly pointed out, Republicans were not expecting to wake up to headlines noting that Reid’s offering more immediate cuts than House Speaker John Boehner’s proposing. Second, because about a trillion of those dollars comes from the expected wind down of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — a source of savings Republicans have recently opposed but, oops, voted for in the House GOP budget.

But another reason, according to one senior GOP aide is that Reid decided to go it alone pretty abruptly, and they haven’t seen his proposal yet.

“The Speaker, Sen. Reid and Sen. [Mitch] McConnell all agreed on the general framework of a two-part plan,” the aide says. “A short-term increase (with cuts greater than the increase), combined with a committee to find long-term savings before the rest of the increase would be considered. Sen. Reid took the bipartisan plan to the White House and the President said no.”Reid’s staff disputes this version of events. In their telling Reid and his aides pursued a range of options at both the staff-level, and at a principals level, through the weekend. Reid was willing to accept budget cuts in two phases, but would not agree to a short-term debt limit extension if it just meant replaying this fight all over again several months from now. Boehner wouldn’t (or couldn’t) bite. Reid left a Saturday evening meeting angry, said no short-term deal, and began contemplating the one-step approach, which leaked Sunday afternoon, and that he ultimately settled on Sunday night.

Republican and Democratic staff continued to pursue a two-step solution to the problem on Sunday, while Dem staff began worked separately on the one-step plan on their own. By Sunday evening, the two separate debt hikes remained a sticking point, and at a White House meeting last night, Reid presented Pelosi and President Obama both frameworks. All agreed that that the single-step process was the way to go — really the only bright-line Dems have drawn in this entire debate — and that’s why things ended as they did late last night.

The conflicting narratives suggest there isn’t a whole lot of good will left between the interested parties. But whether or not they feel they got tripped up by the Dems’ decision, the big question now is whether Republicans will accept the offer on the grounds that it’s, well, pretty much everything they’ve asked for. We’ll learn more in the coming hours.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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