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Finally, Something Sen. Cruz and I Agree On

We are approaching two years since Sen. Ted Cruz and I have finally found something he and I can agree on.  No, it’s not that the UN is involved in a sinister plot to rid the US of guns and golf courses, but that the vote to increase the debt limit should require 60 votes.

I don’t agree with him on this because I am against raising the debt ceiling.  Quite to the contrary, I would prefer to just eliminate it, and in the absence of that I support President Obama’s position that there can be no negotiation over the debt limit.  I agree with him because his insistence on 60 votes to raise the debt ceiling forced Republican leaders in the Senate to own their own deceptive tactics of the last 4 years concerning the debt limit.

Since 2010 Republican leaders have been telling their supporters a lie.  The lie is that raising the debt ceiling is an optional act which they should only do if they obtained concessions from the President.  At heart, Republican leaders such as John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn falsely claimed that the debt limit was a hostage they could shoot when they in fact had to know that the debt limit would ultimately have to be raised.  For some time this was a useful political tactic and persisted because of fig leaf concessions (except for 2011 when the concessions were real) and because the Republicans knew they could rely on Democrats to raise the limit while they “opposed it.”  The base thus came to expect debt ceiling confrontations as a necessary show of strength against the President.

Ultimately, McConnell, Cornyn, etc. created a debt ceiling monster among their base that they could not contain.  What Ted Cruz did was bring the situation to a head and make McConnell, Cornyn, etc. own the deceptive monster they created.  Republican leaders now have blood on their hands with the debt limit and will have a much harder time keeping up the facade of opposing any increases while simultaneously (and privately) trying to ensure that the increase ultimately happens.  The ability of McConnell and others to play debt limit Russian Roulette has therefore been substantially degraded, something we can all be grateful to Sen. Cruz for.

You can follow me on Twitter at @ira_steinberg.

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