The Dirty Deal For A ‘Clean’ Debt Bill
February 14, 2014 by Chip Wood
Well, the Republican leadership has done it again. In the battle over government spending, they waved the white flag of unconditional surrender. Believe it or not, they gave Barack Obama permission to spend as much money as he wants over the next year — with absolutely no strings attached.
The media are reporting that the House and Senate passed a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling. Actually, they did no such thing. They didn’t set a new limit on government borrowing. Instead, they abolished any debt ceiling for the next 14 months.
It’s incredible how this deal will work. By suspending the debt ceiling, your friendly Federal government can spend all the money it wants — or rather, all the money that Congress will allow – between now and March 16, 2015. By an amazing coincidence, that gets everyone past the elections this November.
Then, when this temporary measure expires, the new debt ceiling will be the present debt — which is an absolutely appalling $17.2 trillion (yes, that’s “trillion” with a “t”) — plus however much more debt is created between now and next March. That will be another trillion dollars in red ink added to the total by the profligate politicos in Washington.
In just six years of his Presidency, Obama will have increased the national debt by more than $7 trillion. And what’s most amazing of all is that our so-called leaders in Washington are actually claiming that this latest vote means that they were being “responsible.” Isn’t that incredible?
The Republican surrender began in the House of Representatives when Speaker John Boehner told a startled group of Republican Congressmen that he finally agreed not to attach any spending restrictions to the debt-ceiling measure. That is exactly what the Obama Administration had been demanding all along.
As hard as it is to believe, when Boehner announced his new plan at a closed-door meeting of Republican Congressmen, he actually expected to be applauded for it. When he was greeted by silence at the end of his remarks, he said rather petulantly: “I got this monkey off your back and you’re not even going to applaud?” The docile lawmakers took the hint and gave him a less than robust round of applause.
That was all it took for 28 Republicans, including Boehner, to vote for the measure. All but two Democrats in the House also said “aye,” so the no-debt-ceiling bill passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 221-201.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was absolutely delighted with the result. “A few reasonable House Republicans were willing to join Democrats to avert a catastrophic default on this nation’s obligations,” he said.
Reid wanted to rush the bill through on a straight majority vote. But that didn’t happen. Instead, an interesting fight developed when Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) refused to go along. The Tea Party favorite forced the Senate to vote to end debate on the matter.
But ending debate can’t be done by a simple majority; cloture requires 60 votes, and there are only 55 Democrats in the Senate (counting two independents who usually vote with them). Unless five Republicans could be found to join them, Reid wouldn’t be able to bring the measure to a vote.
That’s when Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Republicans’ ostensible leader in the Senate and a guy who insisted all of last year that he would never vote to raise the debt ceiling unless some spending restrictions were part of the deal, agreed to switch sides. So did John Cronyn (R-Texas), the Minority Whip in the Senate, and 10 other turncoats.
So Reid had the super-majority he needed to end the debate. The final tally on that one was 67-31, with a dozen Republicans joining all of the members of the Democratic caucus.
Now that the debt bill could be approved by a simple majority, it was safe for the Dirty Dozen to switch back. So every single Republican, including McConnell, pressed the “no” button. The bill to suspend the debt ceiling passed on a straight party-line vote, 55-43.
This means that McConnell will be able to assure the voters in Kentucky that he voted against suspending the debt ceiling. If you live there (or have any friends there), I hope you won’t let him get away with this charade. Please remind everyone you know that McConnell was instrumental in getting the measure approved.
If it sounds like there was an unseemly rush to get the dirty deed done, you’re absolutely right. That’s because the House and Senate had already scheduled a recess from now until Feb. 24. But the Treasury Department said it was close to exhausting all of the “extraordinary measures” it was using to continue spending money. Unless it received new authority to borrow funds, it would begin defaulting on some payments on Feb. 27. Now, that won’t happen.
So now what? In How To Stop More Republican Betrayals, I said that one of the best things conservatives could do was send McConnell packing. I urged you to support Matt Bevins, his opponent in the Republican primary in Kentucky this June.
Many conservative leaders agree with me on this. Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, said that her group will work to defeat McConnell and other Republican leaders this year. “Leadership needs to go — they need to be completely changed,” she said.
Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, says the choices are clear: “Do you stand with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell or do you stand for fiscal responsibility?” He says the move to suspend the debt ceiling will encourage his members to work even harder. “It heightens activists’ desire to bring in new blood to Washington, D.C.”
Let’s hope they’re right. In fact, let’s do more than just hope. Let’s work to make sure they are.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.