Not surprisingly, it illuminated the complicated politics and policy that go along with raising the national borrowing limit these days. And also not surprisingly, perhaps, it went nowhere, concluding with the somewhat comical scene of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell
(R) of Kentucky filibustering his own proposal.
Welcome to Capitol Hill
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)
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