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NBC Dismisses GOP Debt Ceiling Plan as a 'Show,' 'Just Wasting Time'

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry admonished Republicans for trying to pass a balanced budget amendment as part of a debt ceiling agreement: "Tea Party conservatives love this plan. The President has already said that he's going to veto it. Do we really have time for a plan that is really just show?" [Audio available here]

In response, congressional correspondent Kelly O'Donnell touted White House reaction: "They issued the veto threat, and they also said that this would really force the government to not be able to spend on things like Medicare, Social Security, prevent spending for future disasters. And they even renamed it...The White House is calling it 'duck, dodge and dismantle.'"

Curry's attack on the GOP proposal mirrored a characterization by weekend Today co-host Amy Robach on Saturday, as she asked left-wing MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe about the plan: "No one believes that this has any chance of passing; therefore, this looks very political. Is that risky for the Republicans in terms of it looking like they're just wasting time?"

Wolffe responded: "It is risky because the credit rating agencies have already said they are reviewing the credit worthiness of the United States....About two-thirds of the American people, according to a whole raft of recent polls, suggest they want a balanced approach. This doesn't look very balanced, at least when Republicans are making these kind of gestures."

On Monday's Today, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd described the balanced budget effort as having "no chance of passage" and that "once that's out of the way" a real deal can be reached.

Here is a full transcript of Curry's July 19 exchange with O'Donnell:

7:10AM ET

ANN CURRY: Exactly two weeks from today, if there is no deal, the United States will reach its debt limit and be unable to pay its bills. But the President and congressional Republicans are still trying to work out their differences, as the House considers a controversial measure today. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent, now joins us.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Debt Deal Deadlock; Is Congress Making Progress on Budget Agreement]

First, Kelly, publicly, the Republicans are calling for the cap – cut, cap and balance plan. Basically, it increases the debt ceiling with only spending cuts, caps future spending, and it calls for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Tea Party conservatives love this plan. The President has already said that he's going to veto it. Do we really have time for a plan that is really just show, Kelly?

KELLY O'DONNELL: Well, the important thing for House Republicans and conservatives is to get their big political statement today. So they believe there's time for that. Because the plan you just described allows them to say, 'The real solution is cutting spending big now, and changing how Congress would work for years and years to come to limit spending in the future.' So that's what they want to do.

Now, the White House knows it's not going to get to the President's desk, but they came out hard. They issued the veto threat, and they also said that this would really force the government to not be able to spend on things like Medicare, Social Security, prevent spending for future disasters. And they even renamed it. You know, Republicans call it 'cut, cap and balance.' The White House is calling it 'duck, dodge and dismantle.' Ann.

CURRY: Okay, on that note, let's move on and talk about what the White House is doing behind the scenes. Because privately on Sunday – secretly, really, there was a meeting between the President and Republican leaders. And it raises the specter, is the quote, unquote, 'biggest deal possible,' actually still possible, Kelly?

O'DONNELL: Well, aides in both parties tell me they're still talking about that, trying to do something that could be much bigger and would have a longer-term result. But the short term is really a plan that is getting a lot of attention quietly, negotiations going on. And it's centered around Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, and Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate. What they're trying to do is a package that would shift the authority to raise the debt limit back to the President. Would give him the political risk, too. He'd be able to do it in three installments between now and his run for reelection. And they would expect to include somewhere in the range of $1.5 trillion in cuts.

A lot of details still to be sorted out. I'm told they're looking at things like extending the popular payroll tax cut. That might be in there. But I'm also told one of the problems is, if this is seen as too much of a Washington establishment solution, that that would make it harder to get any of those House Republicans to go along. And whatever deal will take both Republicans and Democrats to make it by that deadline in two weeks. Ann.

CURRY: Alright. That's right, just two weeks to go. Kelly O'Donnell, thank you so much.

Here is a full transcript of Robach's July 16 exchange with Wolffe:

7:06AM ET

AMY ROBACH: Richard Wolffe is a political analyst for MSNBC. He joins us this morning. Richard, thanks for being with us.

RICHARD WOLFFE: My pleasure, Amy.

ROBACH: So how does what happens this weekend on Capitol Hill affect the average American?

WOLFFE: Well, in some ways, nothing is going to change over the next few days because the bond market, the people behind the financial industry, don't believe any of this stuff is really going to come to pass. They think a deal will end up saving everyone. But they're not experts any more than anyone else in this town, and what we're looking at here is if the talks do fall apart, if default is real, then everyone's interest rates will go up; not just the federal government's, but the markets will be spooked all over the world. We've seen defaults in smaller countries. When it comes to the world's biggest economy, really no one can escape the consequences.

ROBACH: We heard from President Obama. He expects to hear from Congress by tonight as to whether or not they can reach a deal on this. How important is a swift decision? We all know the August 2nd deadline, but how likely is something to actually come out tonight?

WOLFFE: Well, I don't think we're going to see something in the next day or two. There are some talks, a sliver of hope that the big deal that Mike Viqueira was talking about could still come to pass. There were some talks between the White House chief of staff and the Republican leadership just yesterday. But what we're really looking at is a political process that has to unfold. The Republican debate about this constitutional amendment, which really is very late for – to begin that big a discussion, and then what is likely to emerge, it – whether it's this McConnell fallback plan, an idea of raising the debt limit while also protesting it at the same time, or some small package of cuts, that's going to take time. We don't have that much time, a couple of weeks before the federal government has to start making these exceptionally difficult choices.

ROBACH: Right. I want to talk about that constitutional amendment in terms of what the House is saying it's proposing. It's going to work on a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, but include sharp cuts, spending caps, and of course that constitutional amendment you mentioned. No one believes that this has any chance of passing; therefore, this looks very political. Is that risky for the Republicans in terms of it looking like they're just wasting time?

WOLFFE: It is risky because the credit rating agencies have already said they are reviewing the credit worthiness of the United States. So you cannot let people be spooked in the markets that way. That goes beyond politics. That really is going to affect everyone's investments. And beyond that, you're looking at public opinion really wants a balanced approach, not just spending cuts, but some element of tax revenues as well. About two-thirds of the American people, according to a whole raft of recent polls, suggest they want a balanced approach. This doesn't look very balanced, at least when Republicans are making these kind of gestures.

ROBACH: Alright, Richard Wolffe, we appreciate it. Thanks so much.

WOLFFE: You bet.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.