Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Catch of the Day

From last evening, actually: Dave Weigel notes that Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee have invented a "tradition" that it takes 60 votes to raise the debt limit. He also makes an excellent point about why most Senators don't want to establish any such tradition:
Nobody likes to have a pro-debt limit vote on the record, so votes to raise it are usually pretty limited and partisan. In 2012, the last time the Senate gave the thumbs-up to a debt limit hike, it got only 52 votes. So the Cruz/Paul/Lee gambit will fail, it's in the interest of most Republicans that it fail, and the rebels get to say they, the proud and lonely few, stood and fought for the right for supermajority debt limit votes.
Exactly. The more responsible Senators are, the more they should want debt limit increases by simple majority; that way, at least when they're in the minority they can vote against those increases.

Full story on the Senate floor flap, which pitted the Cruz gang against John McCain and Susan Collins, here.

I'm not exactly on Cruz's side here, but I do think that the Democratic grandstanding over the GOP refusal to go to conference on the budget is both silly and annoying, although no more silly and a lot less annoying than the old Republican complaint about Senate Democrats and budget resolutions. And I like old-fashioned regular conference committees and wish they were revived. But there's no particular reason that the deal that will need to be struck on budget issues this year will need to be in the context of the budget resolution, and no real reason to think that it's likely to happen there. Basically, getting all worked up about "regular order" is a big waste of time; the real issue is what's going to happen whenever the two parties get together to cut whatever deals they'll make this year -- perhaps a minimal one to get through 2014 appropriations plus the debt limit, perhaps a larger one.

But at any rate: nice catch!


  1. Cruz is an incredible loose cannon except that he seems to be totally aware of what he's doing. A rump of the GOP think this strategy can force the hard-right agenda through the system, but they don't have a chance. I don't mind Cruz doing this--he'll both gain and lose by his own words and deeds, and the losses will be bigger as he's shown to be a strident ideologue. His bluster won't change the eventual budget one bit.

  2. I don't think it's completely accurate to describe Senate Democrats as "getting all worked up over 'regular order'". What Senate Dems (and some Republicans) are getting all worked up over is the blatant hypocrisy of Republicans who have spent years demanding that Democrats pass a budget through regular order, and now that Dems have done just that, suddenly want to change the "rules" of the game.

  3. The more responsible Senators are, the more they should want to get rid of the debt limit and just have debt authority be automatic based on the taxes and spending Congress approves and the President signs like the way it used to work. Then we can all argue about actual taxing and spending policy instead of having these hostage negotiations about whether to destroy the global economy or not.

  4. @Ron E. - True. In fact, some years ago when Democrats were in the majority, under Dick Gephardt's leadership Congress adopted precisely that policy. The debt limit was "deemed" to have been raised each time Congress passed legislation that led to an increase in federal debt. Congressional Republicans decided they'd rather take hostages.


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