Remember back in the days when D.C. Republicans were too busy fighting amongst themselves to launch a united front against Democrats? Well, thanks to Mitch McConnell’s debt ceiling plan compromise with President Obama and Harry Reid, it appears we are back to the good ol’ days.
McConnell’s complicated plan, which would essentially allow Obama to raise the debt ceiling with only 1/3 of Congress’ approval, is drawing the ire of conservative activists and tea party Republicans in the House. Freshmen GOP congressmen are universally panning the plan, which Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio promised would not make it past the House on Fox News Sunday. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah bluntly tweeted that it was a “stupid idea“.
But perhaps the harshest label given to the plan came this morning from conservative blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, who labeled the McConnell plan the “Pontius Pilate Act.” In fact, he says the plan might lead to the tea party splintering off into a third party, devastating the GOP politically:
Notwithstanding my opinion, I believe the GOP, should it adopt Mitch McConnell’s Pontius Pilate Act, will be sowing the seeds of its own destruction.
In short, a vote for McConnell’s Pontius Pilate Act will cause a serious third party problem for the GOP.
In Washington, McConnell is being greeted as a hero. In the heartland, he is viewed as one of those Washington politicians who have gotten too comfortable to make tough decisions. Tea Party activists see the McConnell Pontius Pilate Act as an example of everything wrong with Washington.
If the House and Senate GOP pushes McConnell’s plan, many of the activists who helped the GOP in 2010 will be helping a third party in 2012. It’ll hurt the GOP’s Presidential candidate. It’ll hurt the Senate candidates. It’ll hurt the House candidates. It will hurt the Republican Party and embolden the Democrats.
And Mitch knows firsthand what a rebellious wing of his party can look like back home in Kentucky. If the McConnell plan winds up being adopted, it’s fair to say that his relations with the party base back home will be greatly strained, and his 2014 re-election might look as scary for him as it did for his protege Trey Grayson last year. Sure, his plan might avert a national default, economic catastrophe, and score him political points against Obama in the short term. But to much of the base right now, the only thing that matters is absolutely no comprise on any issue. Ever.
But McConnell does have one thing to be grateful for. Despite all of the tea party criticism being heaped upon him, one of their leaders has remained quite silent and refrained from piling on. In fact, one that might surprise you. Yes, Mr. Debt himself, Rand Paul, is not throwing out “Pontius Pilate” and “capitulator” and “stupid.” In fact, this is about as much as he’s had to say about the McConnell plan:
Our plan is to cut, cap and balance. We are working to get the House and Senate to move on this.
Remarkably restrained, no? It almost makes one wonder what kind of gentlemen’s agreements have already been forged in this budding frenemyship.