Senate history may have been made today when Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to play partisan games with his own bill to allow the President to raise the debt ceiling.
McConnell assumed the Democrats would not want to vote on it, which he was hoping to use as a weapon suggesting that no one wanted to give the President the power to do the Republicans’ job for them. But, surprise, surprise, a unified Democratic caucus were happy to proceed with a vote on the Republican’s bill. Not only were they happy to proceed, but when McConnell refused to, they rose to the occasion to make the case for filibuster reform.
“What we have is here a case of Republicans not taking yes for an answer… The Republican leader objects to his own idea,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) announced on the floor. “So I guess we have a filibuster of his own bill.”
This left McConnell sputtering that he didn’t want the vote, and he suggested that he now presumes every single bill needs a filibuster proof majority to pass instead of a straight up and down vote. “What we’re talking about here is a perpetual debt ceiling grant, in effect, to the president, ” McConnell said. “Matters of this level of controversy always require 60 votes.”
In other words, in McConnell’s world, there are no more up and down votes—everything has to be voted on as if it had already been filibustered. And the country wonders why nothing gets done in this chamber.
This moment allowed the Democrats to seize on McConnell’s blatant and rather hysterical, if unintentional, parody of Republican obstructionism as they pointed out that he may have had made history today by filibustering his own bill.
Watch the Democrats react here from the Senate Democrats Youtube:
Democrats pointed out that had McConnell been serious about his bill, the country would have gotten what it needs and wants – to mitigate the damage of uncertainty regarding the debt ceiling, as well as seeing the two sides work together in a bipartisan manner.
Democrats reminded Republicans of the result of the Republican debt ceiling debacle the last time around, noting that if McConnell had allowed this matter to be settled, the markets would have responded well and confidence would have been restored that we will not default on our bills. (Translation: Who’s the serious fiscal conservative here?)
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) was very, very concerned that a Senator would propose a bill on good faith and then assume (due to his own party’s abuse of the filibuster) that it had to be filibuster proof. He said, “This may be a moment in Senate history, when a senator made a proposal that, when given an opportunity for a vote on that proposal, filibustered his own proposal. I don’t think this has ever happened before.”
Democrats took to the press in a rather unexpected but welcome display of Democrats showing a willingness to speak the brutal truth about what Republicans are up to, sans sugar coating (though also thankfully missing the rhetoric-heavy hysteria of the typical Republican presser).
Durbin told reporters, “I don’t know how the Republicans can say they’re not abusing the filibuster after what we saw on the floor today. It’s somewhat comic, but sad as well, that we’ve reached the point where Sen. McConnell will not even accept a majority vote on his own measure.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the press that McConnell thought he’d gotten the Democrats but he missed his mark, “It was a little too clever by half…Sen. McConnell’s usually astute political radar was a bit off today.”
A little off you say? Please proceed filibustering your own bill, Senator McConnell. The country is watching.
If Republicans want to refuse to take responsibility for our debt once again, that’s on them. The 14th amendment says quite clearly that our debt “shall not be questioned.”
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.