McCarthy’s Offer

Yesterday Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s House passed a bill that — at least in the broad strokes, it’s a 320 page document and God knows what lurks within — isn’t all that unreasonable. In exchange for raising the debt limit by $1.5 trillion into 2024, the bill would roll back overall federal spending and:

  • Claw back unspent COVID-19 funds. The devil’s in the details and I don’t know how practical this is, but as a matter of principle, the Democrats way overspent on COVID relief.
  • Impose tougher work requirements for recipients of food stamps and other government aid. Again, I support this in concept, but I’d want to know the specifics. And it’s popular. Here in Wisconsin earlier this month a referendum question on this topic won three-to-one
  • Halt Biden’s plans to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans. Fine by me. I’ve always just absolutely hated this idea and accepting the demise of it would be free for Biden since the Supreme Court will kill it in June anyway.
  • End many of the landmark renewable energy tax breaks Biden signed into law last year. It would tack on a sweeping Republican bill to boost oil, gas and coal production. I’d fight this one. I like what Biden has done on climate change.
The debt limit increase that McCarthy engineered doesn’t strike me as all that unreasonable.

So, three out of four isn’t bad. This strikes me as a reasonable starting negotiating position if one were interested in negotiating. But I suppose Biden is making a different political calculation and it’s one that is probably correct. He figures that if the government actually does shut down for a few days Republicans will take a huge political hit. Just wait for one cycle when Social Security payments aren’t made on time.

And he may figure that, since the bill only passed the House by two votes, it won’t be long before a couple of Republicans from swing districts call on McCarty to back off.

I don’t want to make any excuses for Republicans. They were fine with voting to increase the debt limit when Trump was president. They have run up the deficit with a huge, irresponsible tax cut weighted toward the rich. And, of course, if you want to reduce spending the place to do that is in the budget, not on the debt limit.

I suppose the smart political play is for Biden to continue to hold out. But McCarthy’s offer — at least in general outline — doesn’t look that bad to me.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

One thought on “McCarthy’s Offer

  1. Dave – I believe that the only thing that can budge the House GOP and stop this slow-motion train wreck is a bipartisan bill from the Senate. To produce such a bill requires that a framework be established that only centrists can provide. The partisans on both sides are entrenched in their positions and talking past each other. So where do we find the centrists that can do this? I know! There’s you and the readers of your blog!


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