The Democratic Senate plan to raise the debt ceiling failed of cloture. Negotiations are now taking place behind closed doors.
The Senate debt ceiling vote
The Senate voted on a motion for cloture, or limited debate, at 1:00 p.m. today. The motion failed, 50-49. That means that the measure that Senate Democratic Leader Harry W. Reid (D-NV) proposed will not come to a vote. (The House had already voted on a measure identical to Reid’s, and defeated that soundly.)
The secret debt ceiling proposals
Mitch McConnell is cutting another deal on the debt ceiling. But should the country trust him? (Official photo: United States Senate.)
Earlier this morning, rumors began to fly that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was negotiating with the White House and his Democratic counterparts. The deal would be for about $3 trillion of cuts, including $1 trillion immediately, and a special congressional commission to negotiate the rest. The problem, as usual: these cuts would occur over ten years, not the current term of Congress. That means that future Congresses would have to live up to this deal.
Now that the Reid plan has failed, politicians and commentators insist that this new plan is the only plan available. ABC News, for example, asks whether the “rank and file” will accept it.
The right question
What they are not asking is:
Are ten-year cuts, over five terms of Congress, reliable? Shouldn’t this Congress cut the budget now?
What functions of government are necessary or even proper to a free society?
How long will world financiers tolerate an ever-rising debt ceiling before they decide that the US dollar is worthless?
Where is the proof that not raising the debt ceiling will panic the bond markets? Until now, bond prices have held their value. If any bondholders are afraid that the government will “stiff” them on Tuesday, they are giving no sign.
Where does the Constitution authorize the Congress to delegate its spending authority to any commission? That the commission will draw its members from the Congress is incidental.
Some prominent liberals in Congress are already talking down the latest deal—because it does not obviously raise taxes. But earlier this morning, before the failed cloture vote, several Members of Congress said some bizarrely histrionic things. House Democratic Floor Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had already said,
We are trying…to save the world from the Republicans. We are trying to save live on this planet, as we know it.
Was she talking about environmental policy, or strictly about fiscal and tax policy? Pelosi never said. But more recently she said this of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH):
Instead of coming to the Democratic leadership to negotiate, Speaker Boehner turned to the Dark Side.
The Members of the House caught the reference to George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise. That remark did not impress them. When she repeated herself, that impressed her colleagues even less.
Nancy Pelosi is smarter than that. Does she really not care if her colleagues wonder whether she has taken leave of her senses? Or is she play-acting, pretending to dislike any deal that Republicans might agree to, while laughing at them behind their backs?
Republicans in the House, and their conservative constituents, would do well to consider these questions, even if the mainstream media will not.
Featured image: the classic Weimar-era illustration of wheeling a barrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread.