Senate clears debt limit measure for Obama

Money will be used for Social Security benefits, government salaries, Medicare providers
Associated Press
Feb 13, 2014

After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama's signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the "aye" votes came from Obama's Democratic allies.

But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally — held open for more than an hour — in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate's top two Republicans — both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year — provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.

After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted "aye" several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes.

"A lot of people stepped up and did what they needed to do," said Sen. Bob Corker. R-Tenn., who voted to advance the bill, as did Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who said: "Members didn't want to" vote for it.

Cruz' demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. McConnell faces tea party candidate Matt Bevin in a May primary, whose supporters adamantly oppose increasing the debt limit.

"In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending," Cruz said.

After the tally, Cruz said he had no regrets, saying the "Senate has given President Obama a blank check."

Asked about forcing a difficult vote upon McConnell, Cruz said: "That is ultimately a decision ... for the voters of Kentucky."

The legislation would permit Treasury to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government's borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

It passed the House Tuesday after Republicans gave up efforts to use the debt ceiling measure to win concessions from Obama on GOP agenda items like winning approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like Social Security benefits, federal salaries, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday's legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Republicans have been less confrontational after October's 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party's tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters' attention on the implementation and effects of Obama's health care law.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

Most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

"We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. "And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they've just said, 'We'll accept no restraint on spending'."

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn't let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance..

"I'm not going to talk about that," said Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government's borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they're likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

"I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default," said Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Senate action Wednesday cleared the debt issue off of Washington's plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

Comments

Contango

Re: "the rest of the world will come to collect,"

Some financial analysts are saying that Pres. Obama's "myRA" is a way for the poor to begin helping to fund the debt.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101396252

Kinda like Japan, where most of the debt is owned by the public.

Using Japan as an example of how to operate an economy? YIKES!

Dr. Information

Japan is in a mess and a model we should not follow.

Contango

Re: "Japan is in a mess,"

IMO, Japan is the 'canary in the coal mine.'

It could very well be the first (in a series) of the developed economies to monetarily implode.

“Abenomics” is starting to come unraveled.

Why does China continue to import gold?

The Big Dog's back

Japan? Let me think. Isn't that where the nuclear disaster is? How much is that costing the Japanese?

Contango

Re: "nuclear disaster,"

Japan's been mostly in an economic recession since the early 1990s.

Didn't Bill Maher tell ya about this derpy?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jap...

grumpy

Re: "Didn't Bill Maher tell ya about this derpy?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jap...

You really expect him to read all that? it is more than a couple of paragraphs Besides he would never understand something that he doesn't get from a comedienne.

Maher won't talk about Japan. He can't spin it to blame repubes or the tea party so it doesn't show up on either Maher's or piddle puppy's radar.

Peninsula Pundit

The bill originally contained a rider that repealed a cut in the military pension entitlement that will now take effect.
I hand it to the tea friends, when they say 'no more spending', they mean it.
Even if it affects our elderly brave heroes.
Good for them.

Contango

Re: "cut in the military pension entitlement,"

Kabuki political theater as it’s played in DC.

Nothin’ else to “cut’ eh?

Wouldn't want to 'starve' widows and orphans or some other dependent group either.

Just get Fed Resv. Chair Yellen (The Bernank II) on the phone and tell her to 'print up' a few more billion - problem solved.

kURTje

Nugent / Bachman 2016!

swiss cheese kat

That would be better than the wife of a sexual predator.

The Big Dog's back

You do know teddy is one right?

Pete

Kennedy? It should be "was" and he was a murderer.

SamAdams

Cutting down on spending doesn't have to mean cuts to Social Security, or further cuts to Medicare (which are worthless anyway since Obamacare is resulting in a MASSIVE expansion to Medicare and Medicaid).

I suggest we start with $12,000 First Lady dresses and $1,000+ per plate state dinners. Sure, that's a drop in the bucket in relative terms. But does anybody think the multi-million dollar Obama vacations or the office redecorating or the mohair subsidy (intended to be temporary back at the time of World War II) are crucial? Really?

Apparently, it doesn't matter what I think, or what YOU think, is "necessary" as opposed to "unnecessary" spending. It doesn't matter that you and I stick to our budget and, if we can't or won't, we suffer the consequences. Congress just handed Obama a blank check. There'd better not be a single one of those ignorant "yes" votes that comes back to whine about the government being bankrupt when the time comes -- and it is!

The Big Dog's back

Really sam? Give me a break. If you right wingnuts weren't so whacked out, it wouldn't cost that much for security. But since that won't happen, I want our President secure, any President.

Darwin's choice

Maybe if the fool in the white house wasn't such a moron, he wouldn't need a "posse" of his peeps to follow him around. And you have no room to talk about being whacked out, you're the king of fools.

SamAdams

Where, pray tell, did I mention presidential security as a potential area for cuts? Oh, gosh, I guess I didn't! Why not? Because that's one of the few things that SHOULDN'T be cut! (Of course, if the President is secure, it'd be nice if the country was, too, and the man in the White House can't be bothered with that...)

When I talk about massive vacation costs, I'm talking about curtailing the trips all together. They can go to Camp David or to Chicago if they need a break. They DON'T need to spend two weeks in Hawaii or go on an African safari. They DON'T need to bring 60 close friends to stay in five-star hotels on the taxpayer dime. And they most assuredly don't need to take separate planes, or fly their stupid DOG separately! Do you, like, actually KNOW anything about anything you spew? Or, as has been understandably suggested, do you just get your talking points from the Democrat Party web site or the latest episode of Bill Maher's progressive fantasy?

Pete

It will do absolutely no good to argue with the parasite sect about the debt on here. They flat out don't care. They have no sense of personal responsability. They are leaches upon the fabric of society. And leaches cannot change their blood consuming lifestyles.

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