Analysts See Surrender in Reid's Debt Plan

The proposal would cut $2.7 trillion in spending without revenue increases

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In a press conference this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a plan to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion through the 2012 elections while cutting spending--particularly military spending--by $2.7 trillion. He noted that the package, which he'll bring to the floor today, meets Republican demands for "dollar-for-dollar" spending cuts and no tax increases. Senator Chuck Schumer, who accompanied Reid, expressed exasperation at the GOP's unwillingness to make concessions during the debt debate." We have moved in their direction so many times, and they havent budged," he stated. "There are 100 people in the House who dont care if we default, who are extreme and ideological, and we have not seen the Republican leadership resist that ... Those 100 people do not represent America." As the press conference concluded, the White House endorsed Reid's plan, calling it a "responsible compromise" and adding that the ball was now in the Republicans' court. House Speaker John Boehner will announce his competing plan to raise the debt ceiling incrementally later this afternoon.

As the dimensions of Reid's proposal becomes clearer, however, several political observers are focusing less on Republican obstinacy than on the fact that Reid and the Democrats appear to have caved to Republican demands (The Drudge Report, for example, is running with the headline, "REID CAVES ON DEBT DEAL.").  The Atlantic's Joshua Green notes that Reid's plan meets the two demands House Republicans have made during the debt-ceiling fight: cutting spending by at least $2.4 trillion and not raising revenue. Green adds that Reid's plan isn't a complete capitulation--the proposal doesn't touch entitlements, leaves the door open for the Bush tax cuts to expire next year, and raises the debt ceiling through the 2012 elections--but he adds that the eight days until the August 2 debt ceiling deadline provide "enough time to give away a lot more." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein adds that the Republicans have effectively won the debt debate "if you take the Republicans' goals as avoiding a deal in which they have to vote for tax increases and denying Obama a political victory." But he wonders what will happen if the GOP pushes its luck:

They can push this up to the brink and win, because Democrats really, really, really don't want a debt-ceiling crisis that could set back the economy. But if they push it over the brink, they're likely to lose, as the public really, really doesn't want Congress to create an economic crisis that will set back the economy, and they're primed to blame the GOP if one does in fact come to pass.

In a sub-current of this line of reasoning, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin and The Washington Examiner's Byron York are quoting Republican aides as saying Reid capitulated not to Republicans but to President Obama, supporting Boehner's plan to incrementally raise the debt ceiling until Obama nixed the "bipartisan" effort over the weekend.

Still, not everyone's labeling Reid's plan a surrender to Republicans. The New York Times calls Reid's proposal "a Hail Mary pass that is meant to, at the very least, avoid putting the country through a repeat of the debt ceiling negotiations next year, an election year," while The Huffington Post describes it as a "last-minute attempt to break through the political impasse on a deficit reduction package." Matt Yglesias at Think Progress believes Reid is calling "the GOP's bluff."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.