WASHINGTON – The Senate finally adopted an increase in the nation’s debt limit after a prolonged vote on Wednesday when a reluctant Republican leadership sided with Democrats to spoil a potential GOP filibuster.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) imposed a Senate rule that forced proponents to round up 60 votes before a final vote on raising the debt limit through March 15, 2015, could be conducted – a significant hurdle since majority Democrats, all of whom favored passage, control only 55 seats.
For a while it appeared Cruz and his supporters might prevail, leading to what many fear could be nasty economic consequences. But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, kept the vote tally open for more than an hour before Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, who spent some time loitering on the Senate floor with GOP supporters, gathered enough support to permit the legislation to proceed.
Cruz’s effort to block a vote failed 67-31, with 12 Republicans siding with Democrats. With the way cleared, the final vote to raise the debt limit, currently set at $17.2 trillion, was 55-43 primarily along party lines.
“I’m glad that Republican leaders finally bowed to reality and put families and the economy before the Tea Party,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. “The era of economic hostage-taking, ransom demands, and manufactured crises should finally be behind us, and we now have an opportunity to refocus on the real challenges workers and families face every day.”
Cruz, meanwhile, was unapologetic about his filibuster effort, asserting that the vote proves that neither party is listening to the American people.
“Some members of Congress care so much about being praised by the Washington media that they’re willing to mortgage our children’s future,” Cruz said. “They pretend we don’t have a problem and can just kick the can down the road. Let’s be clear about the motive behind this vote — there are too many members of Congress who think they can fool people and they will forget about it the next week. But sometimes, come November, the people remember.”
Reid, however, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, noting that economists have warned that failure to raise the debt limit, thus leading to the federal government defaulting on its bills, could “devastate the economy and erase the past five years of recovery.”
A report issued by the nonpartisan Peterson Institute for International Economics found that the economy lost $150 billion in productivity and 750,000 jobs when Congress went to the edge of defaulting two years ago before raising the debt limit. Reid said financial industry leaders warned that even the threat of default ripples quickly through the economy.
“And I am hopeful that a more bipartisan, common-sense approach – one that favors collaboration over hostage taking – will prevail this year,” Reid said. “Congress should be striding from accomplishment to accomplishment, not staggering from crisis to crisis. If we spent more time working together and less time running out the clock on procedural hurdles and Republican filibusters we might actually get things done around here. I hope we can continue to cooperate and collaborate this year, and to deliver results for Americans looking for action instead of gridlock.”