Perhaps a Bungled Opportunity on the Debt Ceiling

I haven’t posted much in recent weeks about the growing debt ceiling crisis; it is what it is and we are where we are.  What prompts this note is a May 20 Politico report:

“Looking back on the first two years of [President] Joe Biden’s presidency, [U.S. VA Sen.] Tim Kaine has one big regret about a largely successful stretch of Democratic rule: That his party didn’t try to raise the debt ceiling on its own last year.

The Virginia senator believes that if Democrats had tried to hike the debt limit before the House GOP swept into a majority, even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) might have gone along with it. But Biden’s party never moved on the issue. And six months later, Democrats are stuck doing exactly what they said they wouldn’t — negotiating on the debt ceiling with Republicans.

‘If I could do one thing different,’ Kaine lamented this week, it would have been a late-2022 debt hike. ‘And I was saying it at the time … “‘hey, we got the votes.”’”

I noted in these pages on November 17, 2022:

“Given the paralysis and partisan histrionics that see overwhelmingly likely to ensue when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, I would hope that for the good of the nation, during the upcoming lame duck Congressional session Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (due to the power of the filibuster) can agree to pass measures that have received or could garner bipartisan support to blunt some of the most destructive future MAGA impulses. … Below is a short list of such potential measures. …

  1. Raising the federal debt limit to an amount projected to carry the United States through to April 1, 2025.  Our citizenry will really decide the future direction it wishes the nation to take based upon whom it elects president in 2024.  In the meantime, the full faith and credit of the United States should not be held hostage to partisan rabble. …”

Since I don’t claim expertise in the nuances of the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule, it’s not clear to me, given Mr. Kaine’s comments quoted by Politico, whether Democrats, as I suggested in my post, needed a number of Republican Senators’ support to have raised the debt ceiling in late 2022.  I’ve been assuming that they needed Republican Senate votes, and couldn’t get them.  One could infer from Mr. Kaine’s comments that they didn’t need Republican help.  If six months ago, I – an old retired Midwesterner —  could predict the debt ceiling train wreck we are now facing, it makes one blink to think that Democratic Congressional leadership didn’t see it coming.  If Democrats failed to raise the debt ceiling although they had the votes (alone or with Republican Senate help) to do so — a point I’d like to see definitively addressed – such failure can at best be characterized as shockingly naïve, and arguably more appropriately as startlingly obtuse legislative malpractice.

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