As Ted Cruz sits out filibuster, Senate OKs debt increase

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Senate approved a yearlong increase in the nation’s borrowing limit Wednesday, settling until well after this year’s congressional elections an issue that had triggered three years of gridlock and confrontation between the White House and congressional Republicans.

The final 55-43 vote on the debt limit was on straight party lines, with 53 Democrats and two independents voting for it and 43 Republicans against. Hints of a conservative filibuster faded when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, declined to mount one.

The debt ceiling approval extends the government’s borrowing authority until March 2015, allowing it to borrow more money to pay for spending that’s already been approved. It’s the first time in three years that the debt ceiling issue has been resolved without brinksmanship from Republicans demanding concessions for its approval.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called it an important milestone.

“It is the least that Congress can and should do, and in this case, Republicans in Congress can and should do on behalf of their constituents, which is not to throw the American or global economy into chaos,” Carney said.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned this week that the nation most likely would start running short of money to pay its bills on Feb. 27 unless the debt limit was raised. That could cause a default that would hurt the economy and trigger a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating, which might increase the cost of further borrowing.

The House of Representatives passed the debt ceiling increase Tuesday after Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, allowed it to reach the floor over the objections of tea party groups. Just 27 other Republicans joined Boehner in voting for the measure, but that was enough to assure it would pass along with the support of 193 Democrats.

The votes are a fresh signal that the tea party’s clout has waned significantly. The grass-roots movement that helped elect 87 House Republican freshmen in 2010 and give the party control of the House continues to cajole and threaten dissenters, but most Republicans no longer fear it.

Their mood has shifted since the 16-day partial government shutdown in October. That tea party-inspired strategy backfired politically, sending congressional approval ratings to single digits – and leaving Republicans with much of the blame.

A McClatchy-Marist Poll this week found congressional Democrats with a 33 percent approval rating, but Republicans at 22 percent.

In December, Boehner sent a strong signal that he no longer would be swayed by hard-core conservative interest groups. Since then, the House has passed – with strong Democratic support – a two-year budget package, as well as major legislation on agriculture and defense policy.

This week it was the debt limit increase, the passage of which led hard-line conservatives groups to howl. “Unless we install a new leader who will actually go on offense, Democrats will never fear us and we will never have any leverage,” the Senate Conservatives Fund said as it urged replacing Boehner.

Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth urged a no vote on raising the debt ceiling and warned that they’d include it on their “legislative scorecards” that go to voters.

“Without a debt limit, all control over borrowing decisions shifts to the treasury secretary, who is appointed by the president,” said Heritage Action’s Romina Boccia. “Effectively, this concentrates borrowing authority in the executive branch, and hands the president a blank check to borrow against the U.S. taxpayer.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said he couldn’t support the measure. “This clean debt-ceiling increase will grow nothing but the debt,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said defaulting on the nation’s bills would devastate the economy.

“Financial industry leaders have warned Congress again and again that even the threat of default ripples quickly through the economy,” he said.

The crucial test for the debt limit came in a tense vote to shut off a threatened filibuster. Republicans have long been reluctant to approve an increase without some strings attached, such as assurances of spending cuts.

Many were torn. They wanted to avoid a politically damaging confrontation with the White House, which wanted a “clean” debt limit increase without any conditions, but they’ve railed for years against a higher ceiling.

So on the key procedural vote, which limited debate, 12 Republicans joined the 53 Democrats and two independents to total more than the needed 60 to limit debate, but only after an hourlong vote – three times as long as usual – that involved a lot of intense lobbying on the Senate floor.

The votes in favor included the top two Republicans in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. They, along with the other 10 Republicans, wound up voting against raising the debt limit for a year.

Cruz had threatened the filibuster, but in the end he didn’t even use the limited amount of time he was allowed to publicly debate the bill.

“I intend to object to any effort to raise the debt ceiling on a 50-vote threshold. I will insist instead on a 60-vote threshold, and if Republicans stand together we can demand meaningful spending restraint to help pull our nation back from the fiscal and economic cliff,” Cruz said in a statement.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong number of Democrats who voted for the measure in the House of Representatives.

Email: scockerham@mcclatchydc.com, dlightman@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @seancockerham, @lightmandavid

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
President Barack Obama speaks about the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, Monday, July 21, 2014. President Obama announced that leaders of 60 of the largest school systems have pledged to expand minority boys' access to better preschools and advanced classes and to try to prevent grade retention, suspensions and expulsions.

    Obama heads off to raise money on the West Coast

    Amid a swirl of foreign and border challenges, President Barack Obama is embarking on the one mission that has regularly proved a winner for him — raising money for his fellow Democrats.

  •  
FILE - This June 2014 file photo shows President Barack Obama shaking hands with former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald, his nominee as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington.  A federal investigative agency says it is examining 67 claims of retaliation by supervisors at the VA against employees who filed whistleblower complaints. The independent Office of Special Counsel said 30 of the complaints about retaliation have passed the initial review stage and were being further investigated for corrective action and possible discipline against VA supervisors and other executives. The group’s report comes as the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing Tuesday on the nomination of Robert McDonald to be VA secretary.

    VA nominee McDonald goes before Congress

    President Barack Obama's choice to lead the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department is going before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for a confirmation hearing as Congress considers a bill to help the next VA leader do his job.

  •  
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves a diner, Monday, July 21, 2014 in Greenwich, Conn. Christie at the diner with Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.

    Christie: No plans to campaign in NY for Astorino

    Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he doesn't have plans to campaign for New York's Republican candidate for governor because he doesn't campaign for candidates he doesn't think can win.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category