UPDATE: Joan McCarter
The debt ceiling deal just passed the Senate, 63-36, after a long day of wrangling over amendments as well as agreements from leadership about commitments to pass all of the appropriations bills and a mess of other stuff. But 11 amendments were quickly (by Senate standards) dispatched, none of them passing, which was a foregone conclusion—they couldn’t change the bill because there would not be enough time for it to go back to the House.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has set Monday, June 5, as the absolute last day the government can keep paying its bills without action from Congress to lift the debt ceiling. With the House set to act by the end of the day Wednesday, the Senate could be pushed to its procedural limits to get the job done in time. Senate Republican nihilists so far seem pretty determined to push that limit, even though their efforts to derail will be futile.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has done his bit. He has wholeheartedly endorsed the deal President Joe Biden struck with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. That doesn’t mean he’s going to crack the whip on his nihilists, though—even if he could. Though their counterpart Freedom Caucus in the House has caved to reality, there’s mischief to be made in the Senate, where they have the power to drag things out until the last, painful minute.
A few Republicans have already made it clear that they are not going to bow to the inevitable and let the bill pass with unanimous consent. Instead, they’re going to demand that the Senate waste hours and hours of “debate” time while the chamber sits empty, just to make the point that they do not approve.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee promised to do just that earlier this week, saying he was going to use “every procedural tool at my disposal” to gum it up. “It’s time to go back to the drawing board or, even better, go back to what the House already passed,” he said, talking about the original Freedom Caucus plan the House passed back in April. Which of course isn’t going to happen, and he knows it. Knowledge, however, isn’t enough to dissuade him from being a pain in the ass.
Speaking of pains: Rand Paul. Because always Rand Paul. Interestingly enough, though, the Kentucky senator doesn’t want to drag this out for hours and hours. He just wants an amendment that says everybody should be doing this bill the impossible way he wants to do it: with a balanced budget in five years. He knows it won’t even get a majority of Republican votes.
“I don’t think there are 50 votes. I think about half of the Republican caucus will support mine,” he told reporters earlier this week. “No Democrats will support it. But the American people need to know that’s where we are.” Sure, Rand. Do it for the people.
McConnell’s would-be nemesis, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, of course can’t support the bill because McConnell is supporting it. He tweeted his opposition with a demand that McConnell capitulate to him. That’s not going to happen.
South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham says there’s not enough defense spending in the bill, even though it is one of two budget items that won’t be frozen and is getting an increase. So he’s going to “use all powers available” to get a vote on an amendment to increase the Pentagon’s budget.
There’s a whole contingent of Republicans who know that they won’t have to support the deal for it to pass, and they also know that offering amendments is purely performative. None of those amendments will pass, because if they do then the bill has to go back to the House to be voted on again. That’s far too dangerous a proposition when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury, and letting the maniacs have another stab at it.
What it’s going to come down to is just how obnoxious they feel like being to the rest of their colleagues, and how much they want to enjoy a work-free weekend. Paul gave that game away. He and his colleagues will demand amendments that they know won’t pass, and will get votes on them from leadership because no one wants to hang around longer than they have to. “They won’t do it out of generosity but they may want to do it out of wanting to leave town for the weekend,” Paul said.
Who won the debt limit negotiations? A fierce spin battle is currently underway
Republican unity on debt ceiling crumbling fast
House Freedom Caucus neutered by debt ceiling deal
How can Democrats win the messaging war? It turns out there's actually a science to it, as strategic communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us on this week's episode of "The Downballot." Shenker-Osorio explains how her research shows the importance of treating voters as protagonists; how Democrats can avoid ceding "freedom" to Republicans by emphasizing "freedoms," plural; and why it actually makes sense to call out "MAGA Republicans" (even though, yes, it's all Republicans).