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May 31, 2011

Boehner Performs the Ultimate in Debt Ceiling Kabuki

Posted in: Broken Government

Speaker Boehner (right) plans a vote on a clean debt ceiling bill. (Kabuki print via Asian Curator at the San Diego Museum of Art)

The House Republican leadership is planning to bring up for a vote a “clean bill” to raise the government’s borrowing limit. The House leadership intends for this vote to fail in order to prove the debt ceiling bill can’t pass without reaching some agreement on major cuts in spending.

Of course, to “prove” this, Speaker John Boehner is bringing up to the bill under rules that assure it can’t pass. Instead of voting on the bill under regular rules, where passage would require only a simple majority, the bill will be brought up under suspension of the rules that significantly restrict debate and require a two-thirds vote for passage.

This move is the ultimate expression of political kabuki, and goes beyond just a show vote. Even if there were a majority of the House that supported voting for a clean debt ceiling increase, due to suspended rules, they now have no incentive to actually vote for the bill. After all, voting to raise the debt ceiling isn’t very popular, so knowing this bill can’t get a two-thirds vote, individual members have no reason to take an unpopular vote that will end up doing nothing.

Boehner isn’t having a vote on a clean bill to prove it can’t pass without major concessions, he has preordained the bill’s failure, taking away members’ reasons to actually vote for the bill, therefore assuring the final roll call will look very bad. Boehner will then point to this big failure he himself guaranteed as somehow justifying his making even more demands.


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