It appears that Speaker Boehner disguised the vote to raise the debt ceiling by using a bill described as designating the air route traffic control center located in Nashua, New Hampshire, as the “Patricia Clark Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center.” I’m not sure how that came to be, but it’s indicative of just how toxic raising the debt ceiling is seen within the Republican caucus. Only twenty-eight Republican congressmen voted for the extension, and many of those votes came from members who are not seeking reelection. The Senate Republicans are showing no more courage, as they seek to avoid having a sixty-vote threshold so no members are forced to approve the debt hike. Unfortunately for them, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) plans on screwing his fellow Republicans under a bus.
On the Senate side, Republicans were eager to get the matter taken care of, as well. Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said it “makes sense to me” to allow the matter to pass quickly with 51 votes. The lower-threshold would let all Republicans vote against the plan, as opposed to the 60-vote filibuster threshold that would require the support of at least five Republicans — and potentially several days — to overcome.
“I know we’ve got a big storm approaching, and flights being canceled, plus I think people feel like it’s inevitable that we’re going to have to act on the debt ceiling,” Cornyn said. “So the question is do you want to do it now? Or put it off?”
The issue was debated repeatedly during a 90-minute Senate GOP lunch off the floor on Tuesday, but GOP senators said the overwhelming consensus was to put an end to the partisan brinksmanship.
Some conservatives clearly weren’t happy, but it was unclear how far they’d go to put up a fight. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the architect of the fight over the government shutdown, said he would insist on a 60-vote threshold — but didn’t seem willing to keep the Senate in session through the weekend to clear procedural hoops.
“The precise timing is not terribly consequential, whether the vote is tomorrow or the next day,” Cruz said. “What matters is the threshold of 60 votes.”
It’s nice of Senator Cruz to accede to procedural maneuvers that will allow a timely vote so that members are not stranded in DC during the coming snowstorm, but he’s forcing at least five GOP members to walk the plank and approve raising the debt ceiling despite leadership’s desire to shield members from the consequences of such an act.
That will allow the Democrats, who are acting responsibly here, to argue that the vote was bipartisan in nature. And that is precisely what the Republicans don’t want, because Speaker Boehner is trying to spin the vote as an entirely Democratic affair.
Boehner put the best face on his inability to win over his conservative wing, saying, “Understand, it’s the president driving up the debt and the president wanting to do nothing about the debt that’s occurring, will not engage in our long term spending problem. And so let his party give him the debt ceiling increase that he wants.”
Of course, many Republicans aren’t buying that spin.
“He gave the president exactly what he wanted, which is exactly what the Republican Party said we did not want,” said a Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to rally enough support to derail Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. “It’s going to really demoralize the base.”
“A clean debt ceiling is a complete capitulation on the speaker’s part and demonstrates that he has lost the ability to lead the House of Representatives, let alone his own party,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. “It is time for him to go.”
In the end, this is a good move for the Republicans. But it is only a good move because people don’t pay close enough attention to the nitty-gritty details of what is happening in Washington DC. This should be a highly embarrassing moment for the GOP, as their rhetoric over the debt is exposed as empty posturing, and their members are revealed to be hypocrites and cowards.
But, because people don’t pay close enough attention, all this is is a savvy avoidance of a fight that they were going to lose that will allow them to make the argument that the Democrats (alone) are responsible for runaway deficit spending.
Our job is to educate as many people as possible about what really went down.