Ryan suggests swapping debt ceiling increase for Keystone pipeline approval

The intriguing thing about Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to trade a debt ceiling increase for the president's approval of the Keystone pipeline is that the proposal is likely to get at least some Democratic support. An appearance of bi-partisanship would make it more likely that White House would cave on their ridiculous claim that the president is not going to bargain on raising the debt limit.

Wall Street Journal:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) on Tuesday floated the possibility of pressing the White House to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline as a GOP condition for raising or suspending the debt ceiling.

"We've never just done nothing," Mr. Ryan said in an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio program. "We want to make sure that we're taking steps in the direction of fiscal conservatism, of fiscal responsibility. I, for one, think we need to do more in the energy sector. I believe we need to approve Keystone pipeline. We need to produce regulatory certainties to all this private capital that develops this energy boon. We could be an energy independent continent within a decade if we stop the government from stopping it from happening. If we just get the government out of the way, it could be a real renaissance of oil and gas exploration in America, lower our gas prices, stop sending this money to foreign countries."

A full transcript of Mr. Ryan's comments can be found here.

The White House has said the debt ceiling will need to be raised or suspended by March - at the latest - so the government can continue borrowing money to pay its bills. The White House has also said it will not negotiate policy changes in exchange for a debt ceiling increase, but Mr. Ryan and other Republicans have said the White House will have to accept some conditions or policy demands.

Mr. Ryan, in the radio interview, suggested that a regulatory or procedural change, such as the Keystone pipeline, was a more likely possibility than a structural change to a program like Medicare. He said, for example, that he has pushed for certain changes to Medicare, but he has run into resistance from Democrats.

It's a realistic alternative, but I doubt whether a significant number of Tea Party Republicans will go for it. In fact, if the budget deal is any indication, the GOP will succeed in raising the debt limit - perhaps in January - despite opposition from the right wing. Boehner does not appear to be in an accommodating mood anymore and has chosen to buck the right and let the chips fall where they may.

Senator McConnell is in a far more delicate position as he faces a strong challenge in the GOP primary. But as with the budget deal, he probably won't stand in the way of a debt ceiling agreement.

Would Obama go for it? He will probably ask for a multi-year rise in the debt ceiling in return. It's a danger to give Obama and the Democrats that much money to spend, but perhaps a few spending curbs included in the bill might sweeten the deal enough to bring the GOP on board.