Conservative groups that had been anxiously hoping to use this summer's debt ceiling vote as a rare opportunity to reduce government spending were furious Wednesday when Senate Republicans outlined a plan to raise the limit without ensured spending cuts.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined a complex and procedure-heavy proposal Tuesday (details here) to give President Obama the ability to raise the debt ceiling in increments without Republican support. McConnell unveiled the plan just before leaving Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with Obama to continue discussions for a possible deal between the parties.
McConnell was careful to describe his plan as a "last-choice option" but several conservative groups took aim at the minority leader for effectively destroying, in their view, any leverage Republicans had to negotiate with the president.
Michael A. Needham, CEO of Heritage Action, the advocacy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, called it a "serious walk back" from the party's long-held position on the debt ceiling deal.
"Republicans in Congress have been expressing their intent to use the debt ceiling as a means to secure systemic reforms that could save our country from fiscal collapse," Needham said. "The plan that we are reading reports about today is a serious walk back from that position and would seemingly trade the leverage needed to achieve reforms in return for political gains."
FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group that organized some of the largest tea party rallies in 2009 and 2010, sent McConnell's office number to its member lists and urged them to help him "find his spine."
"If Sen. McConnell thinks cutting spending is too hard, maybe he should listen to the tea party grassroots that sent 87 additional Republicans to Congress last year," said Freedom Works Vice President Dean Clancy. "We want to see real cuts, spending caps with teeth, and a Balanced Budget Amendment. We'll be encouraging our million-plus members to help Sen. McConnell find his spine."
Conservative bloggers were no friendlier.
"Mitch McConnell wants to make it even easier by allowing Congress to go through a dog and pony show of feigned cuts that never get cut while allowing escalation of our national debt," wrote RedState.com editor Erick Erickson in a post originally titled, "It's Time to Burn Mitch McConnell in Effigy." "2014 cannot come soon enough to destroy the political future of this weasel."
"Three letters come to mind," wrote Michelle Malkin, a conservative commentator. "W.T.F.?!!"