Debt ceiling debate twist: Sen. Mitch McConnell filibusters himself
Yes, another debt-ceiling debate is looming, and the Senate's attempt to deal with the issue Thursday involved complex legislative machinations that appeared to backfire on Mitch McConnell.
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Senator Portman and his colleagues argue that the debt limit has helped focus Washington’s attention on the issue of debt and deficits, and that significant debt-reduction deals in the past have been attached to hikes in the debt ceiling.Skip to next paragraph
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“In short, nearly every significant deficit reduction law of the past 27 years has been linked to a debt limit debate,” the letter said. “For Congress to surrender its control over the debt limit would be to permanently surrender what has long provided the best opportunity to enact bipartisan deficit reduction legislation.”
But never underestimate the congressional urge to make your opponents look silly.
Out of the blue, McConnell came to the floor Thursday and asked for a vote on the president’s proposal.
McConnell was hoping to put Democrats in the awkward position of having to vote for ceding Congress’s authority over the debt ceiling to the president. As he put it in his morning remarks, “by demanding the power to raise the debt limit whenever he wants by as much as he wants, he showed what he’s really after is assuming unprecedented power to spend taxpayer dollars without any limit.”
Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada objected, putting Democrats in the position of blocking a vote on their president’s proposal. Yet within hours, Democrats sensed a way to turn the tables – and were ready to call McConnell’s bluff.
They returned to the floor and offered to bring the matter up for a vote immediately, concluding that, politically speaking, they would be happy to argue that fixing the debt ceiling permanently was the fiscally responsible thing to do – even at the cost of congressional authority.
“Our downgrade of America’s credit rating was not based on the state of our economy but the debt-ceiling debate,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois to reporters after the affair. “We are paying dearly for that already. So the Republicans are creating a situation which makes reducing the debt and deficit extremely difficult by creating this uncertainty about the debt ceiling.”
So what did Mitch McConnell do, facing a vote on his own suggestion from just hours before?
He offered two magic words – “I object” – and filibustered his own suggestion.
With that move, the threshold to pass the bill jumped from a simple majority to 60 votes and the vote was abandoned, though Senator Reid promised to push for a vote on the matter in the weeks to come.
The result? The entire debt-ceiling debate had gone no further than it started the day.