McConnell Declares War

In a pronouncement that’s only surprising because it has emanated first from Senate rather than House Republicans, Mitch McConnell has ruled out any tax measures as part of a deal to boost the debt limit. Not just increases in tax rates, it appears, but anything that touches on taxes:

Predictably, the President is already claiming that his tax hike on the “rich” isn’t enough. I have news for him: the moment that he and virtually every elected Democrat in Washington signed off on the terms of the current arrangement, it was the last word on taxes. That debate is over. Now the conversation turns to cutting spending on the government programs that are the real source of the nation’s fiscal imbalance. And the upcoming debate on the debt limit is the perfect time to have that discussion.

Aside from the arrogance of McConnell presuming to tell not just the president or Members of Congress, but the whole country, that any debate over taxes “is over,” he’s rather obviously trying to narrow the scope of any spending debate to domestic, not defense spending. And then there’s this howler:

While most Washington Democrats may want to deny it, the truth is, the only thing we can do to solve the nation’s fiscal problem is to tackle government spending head on — and particularly, spending on health care programs, which appear to take off like a fighter jet on every chart available that details current trends in federal spending.

Which is why, of course, Republicans remain committed to an insane degree to the repeal and obstruction of Obamacare, the only thing Congress has done in years to effectively curtail the long-term upward trend in health care costs, and why they spent much of the last three years complaining about Obama’s Medicare “cuts.”

I’m not a big fan of counter-polarization theories, or more generally, of the political value of puerile bully-boy posturing by pols. But Obama needs to publicly and if possible instantly remind Mitch McConnell that he’s not in a position to issue unconditional edicts about the scope of negotiations that haven’t even begun. And if this insufferable man continues to assert he’s happy to plunge the national and perhaps even global economy into chaos if he doesn’t get his way, the White House should reconsider its eschewal of the “14th amendment option” for boosting the debt limit without congressional action. It’s one thing to negotiate with hostage-takers. It’s another altogether to treat them with respect when they refuse to negotiate.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.