Defending McDonnell

I have this to say to two right-wing Republicans trying to make their bones by attacking Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell for urging a compromise in the debt ceiling debate: If McDonnell isn’t sufficiently conservative for the Republican Party, then the Republican Party is an extreme fringe group that will soon become either extinct or irrelevant.

And the way GOP representatives have been acting lately, that would most likely be a very good thing for the nation.

Anyway, back to McDonnell’s sin: Hit with the news that Virginia may lose it’s hard-earned AAA credit rating as part of the fallout if the debt ceiling isn’t increased, McDonnell urged – horrors! – compromise. He called for “prompt bipartisan action,” then said:

“There’s got to be a compromise. I’m not going to tell them how to do it. I’d suggest they try spending cuts — everybody knows they’re spending too much,” McDonnell said Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC.

“But they’ve got to get this done immediately or the uncertainty for the business community is going to be just devastating to our country.”

There is nothing controversial or off the wall about what McDonnell said. He reiterated his support for spending cuts over tax increases, but said that the particulars are less important than the result. “For the good of 300 million Americans, please get the job done.”

For that, he got attacked by Claudia Tucker and Tito Munez, both trying to stand out in Republican primaries.

“Raising the debt ceiling is risky business in the first place, and doing so with coinciding tax increases is even worse,” Munez said, proving he doesn’t understand anything about the financial situation the nation is in. Raising the debt ceiling isn’t “risky business.” Failing to raise the debt ceiling is risky business that could lead to economic calamity.

“I share Gov. McDonnell’s exasperation with Washington’s inaction and its potential effect on Virginia’s bond rating, however on some issues there should be no compromise,” Tucker wrote in her press release. I’m sure one of this issues is tax increases, but that hard line attitude – prominent as it is among today’s Republicans – makes no sense. Taxes are at their lowest level in half a century. If the debt is the existential crisis the right claims, then raising taxes ought to be at least part of the solution. Heck, even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is getting calls from wealthy supporters urging him to accept a tax increase:

A few wealthy donors have called Cantor to tell him they wouldn’t mind if their taxes are raised. During two closed meetings this week — one with vote-counting lawmakers, and another with the entire conference — Cantor told colleagues that some well-heeled givers have told them they’re willing to pay more taxes.

In politics, compromise is often necessary. In governing, it almost always is. Today’s House Republicans – and candidates who want to be tomorrow’s House Republicans – have no interest in governing.

I don’t agree with McDonnell on much, and some of his statements can be quibbled with. The Washington Post said McDonnell would rather see Congress reduce the debt “through spending cuts, just as Virginia did in achieving a $311 million surplus in its 2011 budget.” Well, not exactly. Yes, there were a lot of spending cuts, but mostly the Virginia budget ended up in surplus because of accounting gimmicks, pushing obligations off into the future and billions of dollars in federal stimulus spending – which will dry up next year. But in urging compromise and action to increase the debt ceiling, McDonnell is simply looking after the best interests of his constituents. Other Republicans ought to consider that.

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