Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
May 25, 2015

GOP Split Laid Bare on Debt Limit Vote

The split between establishment Republicans and their tea party brethren over debt limit strategy boiled over on the Senate floor Wednesday, when GOP leaders scrambled to put down a filibuster threat by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

The behind-the-scenes battle over the party’s debt limit strategy between Cruz and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ended with McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas walking to the well of the Senate to vote to end Cruz’s filibuster attempt — a vote no Republican was eager to cast.

As he did in last year’s shutdown showdown, Cruz had been pushing his fellow Republicans in both chambers to dig in on the debt limit and extract concessions from President Barack Obama.

But McConnell privately counseled his fellow senators that such a path — which could have led to another shutdown and a first-ever default — was folly. At the heart of the dispute is what will play best in the midterm elections as the GOP attempts to regain control of the Senate.

“The challenge is we all knew what was going to happen after the House did what they did, and you know, to me, the most important thing that can happen this year is … for Republicans to win the majority in November,” Cornyn told CQ Roll Call after the vote. “I don’t want to do anything that would interfere with that.”

Both McConnell and Cornyn face primary challenges in the coming months.

Cruz and McConnell had sparred at the GOP’s Tuesday policy lunch, which some attendees described as heated.

“The leader thought we should go ahead and not have a government shutdown and I agree with him on that,” said Sen. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois. “A government shutdown is a political mistake for Republicans.”

Cruz, for his part, ripped what he considered to be a capitulation.

“Today’s vote is yet another example that establishment politicians from both parties are simply not listening to the American people,” he said. “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.”

Several colleagues lauded Cornyn and McConnell for walking the plank on the procedural measure, even though they ultimately voted against lifting the ceiling. But their primary opponents and conservative groups quickly attacked the Republicans for their cloture votes.

Cornyn dismissed the critics: “I’ve been around politics long enough to know that people will lie, and so will people lie about it and try to misrepresent it? Yeah. Sure. But I think that I’m comfortable with the truth.”

The Texas Republican also ignored the procedural vote when issuing a news release proudly touting his vote against the final passage of lifting the debt limit.

A GOP Senate aide said Cruz’s position was “about forcing people to show their true colors, having people take honest votes that show where they want to be.” The aide said the day’s events led to the conclusion that “today was the day that broke” McConnell.

Before McConnell and Cornyn cast their decisive “aye” votes, they worked their fellow Republicans, but the total was stuck just below the magic 60th vote.

After the voting, Republican senators clustered together on the floor. The scrum featured a band of Republicans often known to stick their necks out on difficult procedural votes, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, as others popped in and out.

But this time, it appeared that the usual suspects balked at going it alone.

Murkowski declined to provide any details on the floor discussions, but conceded, “Let’s just put it this way, nobody likes to be 60.”

She said that for the GOP senators, “it was very important to see that you had the leadership team, almost 100 percent of the leadership team, stepped forward and said you know, it’s important that we get this issue behind us, and, and they led.”

The bill was approved on a party line vote, 55-43, shortly after the vote to invoke cloture on the bill. The legislation appeared in doubt until GOP Sens. John McCainof Arizona, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and John Thune of South Dakota emerged from the GOP cloak room and voted “aye” — after Cornyn and McConnell had taken the plunge.

“Some times you do what you’ve got to do,” Flake said.

While Republicans needed to provide only five votes to reach the 60 needed to cut off debate on debt ceiling proposal, ultimately a dozen Republicans voted to clear the hurdle.

The outcome was still in question coming out of a GOP lunch just as the vote was starting Wednesday, with both Flake and Thune, the conference chairman, indicating that the votes weren’t there yet.

McCain joined in the praise of leadership.

“It was very helpful that the leadership voted the way they did,” the Arizona Republican said. “It was a very courageous act, especially [for] Sen. McConnell, who we all know is in a tough race.”

Kirk said the Republican leaders did what needed to be done, describing them as “leaders who led.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has his own primary challenger from the right and voted against advancing the bill, also tipped his hat to the Republicans who cast “ayes.”

“From their point of view they did what they though was best for the party and the future of the caucus,” he said. “I think people appreciate that.”

He also blamed House Republicans for putting Senate Republicans in such a bad spot by not being able to come together on a concession in exchange for suspending the debt ceiling.

“This is the result of not having a plan,” Graham said. “Guys in the House need to find something reasonable to ask for to raise the debt ceiling and the Senate needs to be supportive.”

McCain agreed that, given the threat of a default, the Senate was left little choice by the House.

He also noted that a government shutdown as a result of not being able to borrow money to fund government programs would hurt Republicans, just like the shutdown in October that resulted from the effort by some GOP senators — most notably Cruz — to defund Obamacare.

“Some of us had pointed out that … the government shutdown [in October] was very harmful,” McCain said. “If it had not been for the troubled rollout of the website for Obamacare it would have been disastrous for us.”

And “it was obvious that the House of Representatives wasn’t going to vote any different,” McCain continued.

McCain was careful not to pin any blame on Cruz, with whom he has butted heads in the past.

“I respect Sen. Cruz’s right to exercise his rights as a senator, I’m not going to complain about that,” McCain said. “I think when we have open and honest debate … I hope those differences are not personal.”

Democrats, meanwhile, merely breathed a sigh of relief.

“I am glad they did the responsible thing,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Budget Committee. “It was painful to watch.”

Meredith Shiner, Matt Fuller and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

  • MrSmith

    Why did the RINOs, who were going to vote for this anyway, deliberately make Mitch throw away his reelection chances?
    We all know that’s what they did.
    As hard as Mitch has fought for their borrowing, spending and taxing they still stabbed him right in the heart.
    I hope the conservatives have the deciding votes for Republican Majority Leader next year and none of these backstabbing RINOs get it.

    • dinthecenter

      I want to add a cheer for Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, some of my favorite RINOs.

      • Ax2root

        history reveals that Abe Lincoln also actd unconstitutionally, was it the denial of habeous corpus?

      • NorCalBuc

        As an avowed progressive, I appreciate Abe, TR AND IKE.

        Imagine, the economy was humming under Eishenhower – he continued Fair Taxation, that FDR instituted. HIgher taxes on the wealthy that provided R&D and infrastructure and jobs, jobs, and jobs. Therefore, the market did great AND Main Street did great!

        He was the last Repubiican that knew how to run an economy.

      • Ax2root

        While understanding that these imperfect presidents ALSO behaved UNconstitutionally …and history has revealed those blights on their presidencies…Better to agree with the Law of the Land the Constitution

    • govskeptic

      Mitch would be the RINO in this, not anyone who forced him out of hiding
      which he has done for years. McConnell and Alexander two biggest
      phonies in the Republican Caucus. New leadership is greatly needed.

  • dinthecenter

    Isn’t it sad that both parties base their actions on what is good for the next election rather than what is good for the country! I agree with the actions of Senators McConnell and Cornyn. A government shut-down would be a disaster for the economy. At some point, BOTH parties need to think more about governing and less about posturing.

    • NorCalBuc

      Pres. Obama has been pleading the Republicans to find common ground around every issue he has faced: health care; immigration; stimulus package; and on and on . . .

      • dinthecenter

        I have been disappointed in President Obama in this area. While both the President and Congressional leaders seem to talk about bipartisanship, each sides sounds more like they’re lecturing the other side. I have often thought that the President sounds more like a Prime Minister than a President. He seems to view himself as the Democrat in Chief, asking Republicans to join him, rather than asking what Congress and the President can do together. Of course, he’s doesn’t get much help from the Republicans on this either. There is ample blame to go around in both parties.

        • Truth Be Told

          You can’t expect the President to compromise with a group that determined on Day 1 that their top priority was skuttling his Presidency.

          • NorCalBuc

            Yes, Truth Be Told.

            The right has had ONLY one goal – to destroy this presidency, as they tried with Clinton. Well, Clinton left this country with a budget surplus.

            Conservatives simply do NOT know how to use government effectively.

            And now, under Obama, we are gaining appx. 125,000 jobs per month; under Bush, we were losing appx. 700,000 jobs per month, during the conservatives’ “Free Market Meltdown”.

          • Ax2root

            Bush lost the Congress after his presidency because of the big govt and other wrong decisions….Presidents must behave Constitutionally or there are bad consequences to the Americans and their Party

          • Ax2root

            every decision by every branch must be based on The Constitution….as to whether or not it is legal in the USA ….The Constitution and it’s words and meanings according to the documents of The Founding Fathers….Let the elected officials make their case ONLY on the LAW of the land for the USA, the Constitution

        • Ax2root

          ” principles can NEVER be compromised,…only abandoned”

          • dinthecenter

            That may make good ideological rhetoric (either on the right or the left), but it make government dysfunctional, at least in anything but a parliamentary system where one party controls all the power at any given time. In a government where different parties control different parts of the government, failure to compromise is failure to govern. I should also note a bit of history – if the Constitutional Convention or the Second Continental Congress were filled with people who held your view we would have no country, because none of the disagreeing people would have been willing to compromise to form a nation.

          • Ax2root

            It was spoken by a German later murdered by the Nazis because principles were abandoned.

          • dinthecenter

            The trick is to figure out what exactly is a principle so basic as to resist compromise. Many ideologues regard every belief as a core principle. This surely seems to be the case with both Tea Partiers and Move-On-dot-Com people. Remember, the founders even compromised over an issue as basic as slavery. Had they not done so, we would have no nation.

          • Ax2root

            Yet that slavery decision, that principle that was abandoned…a founder said this will cause massive bloodshed on future generations ….and he was correct…..the civil war …..because people despised biblical principle of men being CREATED in image and likeness of God and having a GOD GIVEN RIGHT TO LIFE LIBERTY. AND the pursuit of happiness

          • dinthecenter

            It did, of course, cause massive bloodshed. The dilemma was this, however: either compromise on an issue so fundamental as slavery or have no nation. It is a clear historical fact that the formation of our nation absolutely depended on that compromise. The choice was stark and unpleasant – compromise even on slavery or remain a British colony.

          • Ax2root

            We don’t face that historical decision …..We have the Constitution as the Law of the land and EVERY law should have a sure Constitutional foundation based on ORIGINAL WORDS AND MEANINGS of the Founders who wrote the law of the land….We have those documents…legislators can use the Constitution and THOSE Founding father documents to make their case

      • Freedom

        “Pleading” isn’t the word I’d have used. Ordering, demanding, insisting….those are the words I’d have used. He has shown zero flexibility, himself, yet wants everyone around him to be as flexible as gumby.

        • Betsy Meier

          You forget that he won the election and whether you like it or not he IS the President. Now…he’s tried to work with the Republicans and quite frankly I think it’s useless. The house has been a huge problem because they’ve decided (meaning the tea party reps) to go against him whether they like what he’s doing or not. Sadly there was a poll taken of the tea party and the majority of them ARE racists, and just can’t deal with a black President. Very sad.

      • govskeptic

        The President has been pleading for the Republicans to vote
        the way he is demanding not what is always right or the best
        thing to do. After the phony pleading he immediately starts
        bashing, he acts exactly like the spoiled kid he is!

        • Truth Be Told

          Sorry. That simply isn’t in the least bit true. If yo;u were an adult you’d recognize the truth of that. An example is Obamacare. It is the result of lots of compromise on the part of the President, including the lack of a single payer option. He compromised that, and many other things, in the naive expectation he would eventually get GOP support. What he got was a watered down version of what he and the left wanted. That was the GOP’s plan. They got what they wanted and then spit in his face when it came to doing their part. That is history, my friend. Deny it and you are a liar.

        • NorCalBuc

          Nope, skeptic. He says, “Bring me your plan” to fix health care. “Bring me your plan to create jobs.”

          “bring me your plan to fix immigration,” the President says.

          “Bring me your plan to address climate change,” the President says.

          Yet the conservatives merely want to destroy his presidency. Like they destroyed Iraq and the economy during Pres Bush.

          • Truth Be Told

            Funny. I’ve heard the same from the President. GOP’ers must have a hearing problem.

  • Lars K.

    This article is verything that is wrong with politics and political reporting. It doesn’t talk about the bill. It doesn’t talk about ramifications to the country – to the people if the bill passed or didn’t pass. It talked about elections and politics.

    • Lars K.

      “From their point of view they did what they though was best for the party and the future of the caucus,” he said. “I think people appreciate that.” – How about talking about the country, the people, the finances. Why do any of us care about the caucus or the parties? Why was this the right decision for the COUNTRY? Why was this the wrong decision for the COUNTRY? Forget your darn caucus for a minute already!

      • Freedom

        I don’t know what people they are referring to who would “appreciate that’. It’s certainly not the American citizens who told them not to increase government spending.

        • Truth Be Told

          Pay very close attention. Are you listening? There was NO increased spending. Raising the debt ceiling simply means paying the bills already incurred. And who signs off on spending? One guess and it isn’t the President.

      • Ax2root

        The Washington swamp of policy wonks…..while the hundreds of millions of Americans are screaming at the REPS. To LISTEN to the voters……..move D . C. To Tennessee and make it a part time legislature

  • Mickey Kovars

    Ted Cruz is just a wrecker — there is no way that his strategy would have led to anything but disaster for the Republicans, and he knows it. I ask: if he succeeds in getting McConnell defeated in the primary and the Democrat wins in November, how does that help me? I am just another citizen out there who wants Obama and the Democrats to be stopped. As far as I can see, Ted Cruz is working against me. Rand Paul, who is supporting McConnell, has his head screwed on a lot more tightly.

    • Freedom

      I guess Cruz thought the republicans were more conservative than RINO until he put them to the test. If the repubs would just stand together and vote the way their constituents are telling them, they’d have a much better chance at being re-elected than they would have by selling America down the river.

    • NorCalBuc

      Yup, Mickey. That Bush and Republican era was great for me, too! Bush left us with a job loss of approx 700,000 PER MONTH. Remember deregulation of banks (NO oversight). See no corruption, hear no corporate corruption, think no banking corruption. “Free market” is great – – – but NOTHIN’ in life is free – unless you own it! And you, and I, do NOT own the economy, my friend!

      AND I MEAN my friend, because we area ll a part of the 99%

  • Freedom

    “Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do”….Yeah, screw Americans, screw our kids and grandkids, screw our economy. Just vote to put this behind you so you can get re-elected without a fuss. Well, guess what. You aren’t being re-elected by me.

    • Betsy Meier

      How sad that you don’t understand that if we default the market would have plunged and then another downgrading. The Congress has been voting to increase the deb limit for years. Not just during the Obama admin. Tea partiers think the only thing they have to do is completely limit government and the country will be in a good place. That’s just not true. In some things limiting government is a good thing but in most cases it can’t be that way.

  • Ax2root

    MUCH more painful for the American taxpaying public and the vets who lost benefits to pay for this bad decision boondoggle ….than it was for the Dems to watch…..and they are gleeful that the RINO leadership will pay for this politically….Dem lites always get shot at by both sides….Choose a side RINOS …It’s like watching perpetual Rocky lite losers get politically pummeled….painful to watch, and losers in long run

  • govskeptic

    Truth be Told coming from an inside the Beltway Democratic leaning, pushing
    and shoving the Liberal side of every issue is about as believable as the
    President’s laughable statement of yesterday that he’s “America’s Chief Executive”. That’s a term for business not one incapable of running a paper route

    • NorCalBuc

      Remember “Commander in Chief” Bush – – – an nation building in Iraq. I’m sure you served THAT commander in chief in that war, skeptic?

  • NorCalBuc

    President Eisenhower ran a vibrant economy, that he inherited from 20 years of Democratic Party governance. He maintained a progressive (fair) tax rate, that invested heavily into R&D, Highway Trust System, education and jobs.

    WHY is that successful Republican formula today shunned?

  • squeeze127

    Thank you Ted Cruz, the masks are now showing the true blue RINOs. Now we need Ohio to Primary Boehner.

  • Eliza C.

    “Today’s vote is yet another example that establishment politicians from both parties are simply not listening to the American people,” he said.

    Since when have Americans asked to shut down the government (AGAIN!) and default on debt dollars that have already been appropriated and spent. Senator Cruz’s constituency must be illiterate.

  • Faith McLamb

    These republicans are OUT next election. They are turncoats.

  • Faith McLamb

    Ted Cruz is awesome and so is Trey Gowdy. We need more men like them.

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