Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, along with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced a “clean” debt ceiling increase bill that would allow the government to borrow money through the end of 2014 on Tuesday, setting up a vote in the Senate by the end of the week. The presumption is that all 46 Republican Senators can't be so enthralled with Ted Cruz that they'd actually block a vote protecting the full faith and credit of the United States.
Silly presumption, as it turns out. So far only two Republicans—Mark Kirk (IL) and Thad Cochran (MS)—have said they'd maybe vote for a clean debt ceiling hike. Then there's John McCain, who is giving "reasonable" Republicans cover by saying he'd be a no vote on cloture—he'll filibuster—because the House wouldn't deal with it anyway (excuses, excuses).
We're back in filibuster land, but this time with the possibility of national default hanging over all our heads. What could be more critical, some Senate Democrats are asking, to go nuclear over?
“The rules will have to change,” Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin said when asked how Democrats should respond if the GOP blocks the debt ceiling bill. “If we don’t [have the votes to break a filibuster], then I think it’s time to recognize the new realities that I have been talking about for a number of years. And the reality is that this ain’t your grandma’s Senate.” [...]
“Every instance of obstruction, exploiting and abusing the 60-vote threshold is additional evidence in favor of changing the Senate rules,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “The more that is at stake … the more the abuse of the rule argues in favor of changing it.”
“I’m certainly an advocate for ending the paralysis of the Senate,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a longtime proponent of gutting the filibuster. “I think we have to continue to look at how the lurching from crisis to crisis is doing deep damage to the economy.”
“If it comes to that, it comes to that,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). “And we won’t be the same country again for several generations.”
The reality is that we're not the same country any more, not when Congress actually contains a sizable and insanely influential bunch of default deniers, who don't think default is a big deal. That's the new Congress, and that's the Congress that Reid and company have
to deal with.
Reid could go narrow enough to not blow the filibuster away for all legislation, but just for debt ceiling increases, and that might be an option that would attract 51 Democratic votes, the number he needs. Saving the U.S. economy might just be worth it, and should be the one cause that would bring reluctant reformers along. Talk is bubbling within the caucus, so while Reid wouldn't comment on it for the Politico story quoted above, it has to be under discussion among Democrats, and it has to be a real option for them.
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