Even as the GOP leadership is caving to the outrageous demands of Tea Party members, some Republicans are also becoming more amenable to Democrats’ insistence that there be a long-term debt ceiling increase that goes through the 2012 election. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reiterated today that the Democratic caucus is completely opposed to a short-term deal that would force Congress to raise the debt limit again in six months, when political divisions will be even more stark because of the upcoming election.
Republicans had initially insisted on a short-term increase, but today on MSNBC, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) conceded that it wouldn’t be “healthy” to have to go through this excruciating process again in six months — something the latest version of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) plan still requires:
CORKER: I would love to see us go ahead and achieve all the savings that we can get right now…But I do agree with the fact that having these debates in the middle of the economic downturn that we’re having right now is not healthy. And there’s no question that business people…watch this and become uncertain. So in a perfect world, and I know we’re not in a perfect world, but if we can get worked out over the next several days something that actually achieves all those savings on the front end and also extends the debt limit beyond this next election, to me that would be the perfect solution, and I hope we can do that.
Corker’s position was echoed by a Senate GOP leadership aide who told CNBC’s John Harwood that the party would be comfortable extending the debt ceiling past the 2012 elections, “provided that they had some sort of guarantee that a second round of spending cuts and entitlement reforms would take place.”
The Huffington Post notes that “the softening of the Senate GOP’s position is a breakthrough of sorts in the debt ceiling debate.” Republicans have been arguing that they will only approve a short-term increase because Congress has traditionally voted for small incremental raises. But that’s not actually true: in May 2003, Congress passed the equivalent of an 18-month increase, putting the issue off past the 2004 elections. That extension was roughly the same length of time of the increase President Obama is requesting. Twenty GOP senators currently in Congress voted for that 2003 bill.