"It gives the president of the United States unilateral power to raise the limit on the federal credit card, the so-called debt ceiling, whenever he wants, for as much as he wants," McConnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sought a vote on the president's debt limit scheme on Thursday but was blocked by McConnell, who objected to subjecting the idea to a simple majority tally instead of the 60 votes typically required to pass controversial legislation. But Democrats pointed out that McConnell had pressed for a vote just Thursday morning and had introduced the measure.
"The minority leader filibustered his own bill," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
Last year, Republicans agreed to the debt ceiling scheme only after the White House agreed to steep cuts in spending that virtually matched the increase in the debt ceiling, a deal Obama is not offering to make this time.
"To demand a political price for Congress to do its job responsibly, which is to ensure that the United States of America pays its bills, would be wildly irresponsible," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.
In seeking to eliminate the debt ceiling as a recurring confrontation, Obama and his administration have the support of congressional Democrats and some key members of the business community.
John Engler, the former three-term Republican governor of Michigan and now president of the Business Roundtable, has called for a five-year extension of the debt ceiling, arguing against its use as a bargaining chip for deficit reduction.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics and an occasional adviser to lawmakers, said what to do with the debt ceiling needed to be resolved this month. He said he preferred getting rid of the debt ceiling in exchange for a requirement that increases in the debt limit by matched by a certain amount of deficit reduction, either through spending cuts or revenue increases.
If not resolved, he said, "it's going to be nothing but trouble going forward, given how the parties are working with each other."
Some constitutional experts believe Obama could sidestep a battle with Congress by raising the debt ceiling by executive order. Many legal scholars cite Section 4 of the 14th Amendment as an argument against congressional approval of debt ceiling increases. It states, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."
But the White House has rejected that option, both in the midst of debt ceiling discussions last year and again this week.
"This administration does not believe the 14th amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling," Carney said Thursday.
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