Boehner to Dems: I’ll see your plan and raise you another

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) presented his debt-reduction plan this afternoon, which appears to offer a way out of the debt-ceiling crisis Republicans created. Indeed, by most sensible measure, Reid is offering the GOP everything it wants.

So, House Republicans will gladly accept the offer and end this painful, dangerous fiasco? Of course not. Around the same time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put the finishing touches on his own plan, presenting it first to Rush Limbaugh, then to his own GOP caucus.

Everything about it is shameless. As Ezra Klein noted, even the title is a pathetic joke: “Note that the title isn’t ‘An approach to raising the debt ceiling,’ or ‘An approach to reducing the deficit and cutting spending.’ It’s the: ‘Two-Step Approach to Hold President Obama Accountable.'”

Republicans insisted that if the president wants his debt ceiling increase, the American people will require serious spending cuts and reforms. This two-step approach meets House Republicans’ criteria by (1) making spending cuts that are larger than any debt ceiling increase; (2) implementing spending caps to restrain future spending; and (3) advancing the cause of the Balanced Budget Amendment — without tax hikes on families and job creators. Although this is not the House-passed “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” it is a package that reflects the principles of Cut, Cap, and Balance.

This is very dumb. Obama doesn’t want “his debt-ceiling increase”; this is the nation’s debt ceiling and the nation’s ability to pay its bills. No matter who was president, the debt limit would have to go up. Period. Full stop.

Also note, Boehner’s framework starts with roughly $1 trillion in cuts. Reid’s starts with $2.7 trillion in cuts. Republicans will prefer the former? Really?

The general framework (pdf) is consistent with everything we were expecting — Boehner is sticking to his demand for two debt-ceiling votes, instead of just one — so let’s look ahead to what’s next.

At this point, we would hope to see the parties coalescing around some kind of consensus. That’s not happening. Instead, there are now two approaches: Reid’s conciliatory plan, crafted to satisfy Republican demands, and Boehner’s GOP plan, which he already knows Democrats oppose.

This, of course, increases the likelihood of a disaster. The Speaker is likely to push his plan, knowing that Senate Democrats oppose it, and knowing that it might be vetoed by President Obama. But he considers it worth the risk — as far as Boehner is concerned, he’ll simply refuse to pass anything else, and then blame Democrats for refusing to accept his offer. By his reasoning, if there’s a disaster next week, he can push the blame away, which to him is more important than serving the public’s needs anyway.

The Speaker is creating a dynamic in which both chambers will say to the other, “Pass our plan or the crash will be your fault.”