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Oct 30 2013

A coda on the debt ceiling silliness

Yesterday the US Senate voted on whether to disapprove the raising of the debt ceiling. The motion to disapprove failed by a vote of 45-54, along strict party lines.

Wait, I hear some of you saying, wasn’t this issue settled back on October 16 when the motion to raise the debt ceiling was passed in both the Senate (by a vote of 81-18) and the House (281-144), thus ending the government shut down and averting default? And in that vote, didn’t 27 Republican senators vote with the Democrats to pass the motion? So what was yesterday’s vote, and the switch by the 27 Republicans, all about?

What we saw yesterday was the coda to the kind of political chicanery that passes for governance these days and that I explained in my post on October 18. What we have now is a Republican face-saving measure known informally as the McConnell rule that is operational until February 17, 2014. Until that date, president Obama can unilaterally raise the debt ceiling and his move can only be stopped by both houses of congress voting to disapprove. If they do, then Obama can veto their disapproval and they would then need a two-thirds majority to override the veto. Since there is no chance of that happening, until February 17 all the Republicans can vote their disapproval of raising the debt ceiling, knowing that the ceiling will be raised anyway.

And so the 27 Republicans who voted for the McConnell rule on October 16, effectively raising the debt ceiling, yesterday had the chance to say they voted against raising the debt ceiling. The House of Representatives is expected to play its part in this charade by voting similarly today, allowing those members who voted with the Democrats for the motion that allowed the raise to now vote against the raise The Republicans seem to be hoping that this will fool their crazy but politically ignorant base.

Isn’t politics fun? As long as you don’t have to waste time solving real problems, you can think up all manner of clever ways to do one thing while acting as if you are doing another.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Nick Gotts

    Could Obama raise the debt ceiling to a centillion dollars, thus disposing of this particular piece of nonsense for the forseeable future?

  2. 2
    Mano Singham

    I think that this allows the government to borrow money beyond the old ceiling by selling Treasury bills and the like to cover existing spending commitments. It is done by the Fed and is not really a new ceiling.

  3. 3
    Nick Gotts

    Thanks – so the ceiling still has to be raised by Congress by February 17?

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