The U.S. Senate has advanced a measure to raise the debt limit, voting 67-31 to move to a final vote on House-passed legislation that would avoid default. The House bill, which the Senate will approve now that it has ended debate, will suspend the debt limit until March 2015, at which point the debt limit will be increased to the amount of debt that exists at that time.
Republicans had hoped to avoid a cloture vote on the bill, because a 50-vote threshold would have allowed all of them to take the politically safe path of voting against a clean debt limit while knowing that it would nonetheless pass. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, however, forced a cloture vote, requiring a handful of Republicans to side with Democrats to advance the measure to a final vote. This shouldn't have been a tough task, but it took an extraordinarily long time to muster the votes—voting began at shortly before 2 PM ET and didn't end until shortly before 3 PM ET.
Typically, such votes take 15-20 minutes, but Republicans were so reluctant to cross Cruz that it took them nearly an hour to decide who would vote for cloture. Ultimately, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was among those forced by Cruz to walk the plank, a vote that will be sure to cause him problems in his Senate primary.
In normal times, none of this would be newsworthy, of course. Until the Obama presidency, the minority party—be it the Democratic Party or Republican Party—had never threatened the full faith and credit of the United States. But these have not been normal times and Republicans have repeatedly threatened to force the country into default unless they win concessions for raising the debt limit.
It's been clear for some time that Republicans were running a bluff, and today's vote makes the bluff clear for all to see. By standing firm and taking a principled position against debt limit extortion, President Obama and congressional Democrats have struck a major blow against Republican hostage-taking. The country should never have been forced into this position in the first place, but the fact that the Republican strategy has been vanquished is something to celebrate.
12:00 PM PT: The Senate is now voting on final passage. Now that it's cleared cloture, the measure is 100 percent certain to pass, but until it does, the bill won't officially be headed President Obama's way.
12:07 PM PT: Republican hack reacts:
12:13 PM PT: And now the bill has mustered a majority in the senate. Voting is still ongoing, but it's all but official: The debt ceiling has been raised, with no strings attached. McConnell, Boehner, and the GOP were bluffing all along.
12:20 PM PT: And now it's official: The Senate has voted 55-43 to increase the debt limit and avoid default. Republicans, of course, voted for default.