Mitch McConnell is discretely laying the groundwork for the fall’s budget negotiations, which promise to be a major headache for the new Senate majority leader.
The Kentucky Republican has three priorities for the year-end talks that will dominate Congress starting next month.
He wants to keep the government open, avoid a federal default and avoid alienating his conservative base, which wants big concessions connected to legislation funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.
Government funding expires on Sept. 30 and the debt ceiling needs to be raised by year’s end, according to the administration.
You can only have two of those three priorities, Mitch, and you know it.
Conservatives will erupt in anger over any year-end deal that busts the budget cap set in 2011 for non-defense spending, which McConnell regularly touts as a significant GOP achievement.
An agreement to boost spending and pay for it with a tax increase would infuriate the party’s base even more.
McConnell wants to avoid both these scenarios, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
The problem for him is a non-defense spending increase offset by tax increases and other revenue-raising provisions is exactly what Democrats are demanding.
So at some point, Mitch and John Boehner will have to come crawling to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi again. Like I said, we know how this story ends. How much damage is done to our economy on the trip through hell to get there?