It’s official: at least one Republican senator is now committed to filibustering the raising of the debt limit unless Democrats give in to his demands. From The Hill:
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has told supporters in Utah that he will filibuster the legislation to authorize Treasury Department officials to add to the nation’s multitrillion-dollar debt.
Lee said he might be persuaded to back off if Obama and Democratic leaders agreed to a major concession, which GOP strategists consider highly unlikely.
“The concession would [have to] be something very significant, very permanent and very binding, like a balanced-budget amendment — and passage of it, not just a vote,” Lee said.
Now, Democrats wouldn’t actually need Lee’s vote to increase the debt ceiling so they won’t give in to his specific demands, but Lee has moved the fight to the right and strengthened the hand of his fellow Republican senators.
By threatening to filibuster the bill, Lee is basically requiring it to get at least 60 votes in the Senate, giving other Senate Republicans leverage to make more “reasonable” hostage demands.
Of course, Democrats could take all the power out of Lee’s reckless filibuster threat with their own threat to use a point of order to simply eliminate the filibuster, but that would require backbone and admitting they never actually needed to give into any of the GOP hostage-taking over the past two years.
Nor would this even be a problem if President Obama hadn’t publicly said he “must” give in to these hostage-taking tactics. . . or if raising the debt ceiling had been included in the Bush tax cut deal. . . or if Democrats hadn’t thrown away their opportunity to reform the filibuster. . . or if Democrats had done the smart thing two years ago by just totally eliminating all future debt ceiling votes.
It isn’t that the Republicans are good at the legislative gamesmanship, it’s just that Democrats, like the extinct Dodo bird, will choose to basically walk right in to even the most obvious traps.
The smart money says that this debt ceiling fight will end with another Republican victory, with the GOP getting even more draconian cuts from domestic programs.