‘Nobody is talking about not raising the debt ceiling’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” talking to guest host Bret Baier about the debt-reduction talks. The Republican senator made a couple of comments that stood out.

BAIER: I mean, for people out there — I mean, do you believe [the economy is] in serious jeopardy if the debt ceiling is not raise August 2nd?

MCCONNELL: Nobody is talking about not raising the debt ceiling. I haven’t heard that discuss by anybody.

BAIER: Some are.

MCCONNELL: Not in the Congress. Yes, nobody is talking about doing that. We’re talking about trying —

BAIER: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has said, “Don’t them fool you that the economy is going to collapse.”

MCCONNELL: We’re talking about using this request that the president made of us to raise the debt ceiling as an opportunity to do something really significant for the country about spending and about debt. And that, of course, would also be good for the economy.

Several times in the interview, McConnell said the Obama administration “requested” that Congress raise the debt ceiling, which is almost amusing. For the Republican senator, it’s as if Congress is being asked to do the White House a favor, and lawmakers have to decide whether to lend the president a hand. In reality, of course, that’s absurd — this is a routine step the federal government simply has to take. Whether the Treasury Department filed a pro-forma request is irrelevant, and trying to blame the administration for wanting to pay our bills is ridiculous.

Probably more important, though, is McConnell’s assertion that “nobody is talking about not raising the debt ceiling.” The GOP leader said no one in Congress is pushing such a line, only to be reminded that members of his own party have done just that, forcing McConnell to change the subject.

But “nobody is talking about not raising the debt ceiling” certainly sounds as if McConnell believes his party isn’t inclined to metaphorically shoot the hostage. Indeed, the GOP leader seemed to be suggesting that default isn’t a viable scenario.

The problem, of course, is that it’s rather difficult to know whether McConnell is telling the truth. If he is, then the doomsday scenario isn’t really on the table, Republicans don’t really intend to crash the economy on purpose if they fail to get their way, and GOP leverage in these talks isn’t quite as obvious as it appears. (Leverage comes from the belief that Republicans really are just crazy enough to deliberately destroy the global economy.)

If McConnell isn’t telling the truth, and he has no qualms about appearing on Fox News and lying shamelessly, then nothing has changed and the proverbial hostage remains very much in jeopardy.

Which is it? I haven’t the foggiest idea. If McConnell inadvertently slipped yesterday and accidentally told the truth, then when push comes to shove, Republicans won’t really hurt us all on purpose. If McConnell was fibbing, and he considers failure an option, we have a great deal to worry about.