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December 23, 2009

Byron York: Hey, McConnell Got a Concession out of Reid

I mentioned this yesterday and now Byron York writes about it.

One thing people were asking about is "Why is Drudge saying the debt-limit vote will happen Christmas Eve if your source is saying January 20th?"

Short answer: The vote tomorrow is for a one-month stopgap to prevent default. They want to have the bigger, longer-term vote just before the SOTU.

The Senate has still not voted on a bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling. It has to do so by tomorrow, before lawmakers leave for the year. Democrats have taken hits for wanting to raise the limit by about $1.8 trillion; raising it by that amount would allow them to avoid another vote on raising the debt ceiling before next year's elections. They also hoped to hide the measure inside a conference report so that lawmakers would vote on a larger package of measures and would not have to cast a vote specifically in favor of such a huge increase. When they couldn't reach agreement on that, they came up with a plan for a two-month debt-ceiling agreement, which would at least mean they would not have to come up with a longer-term agreement until February.

That is important because Democrats want to hold the debt-ceiling vote after the president's State of the Union address, in which Obama is expected to emphasize fiscal responsibility and deficit control. Given Democratic spending in the last year, Obama will have a difficult time making the argument with a straight face, and Senate Democrats had hoped that pushing the debt ceiling vote until well beyond the speech would make the president's task a little easier. Thus the plan to pass a two-month debt ceiling bill before leaving for Christmas.

But back to the problem at hand: Reid wanted to leave town earlier than 7 p.m. So McConnell offered him a deal. The Senate comes back into session on January 20, just a few days before the State of the Union address. McConnell offered to hold the health care vote a few hours earlier on Christmas Eve if Reid would agree to take up the debt limit issue on January 20, and would further agree to hold a specific roll-call vote that day on raising the debt ceiling, and would further agree to consider, and vote on, five Republican amendments related to out-of-control federal spending.

In the debt debate -- the one Democrats didn't want to have -- GOP senators are expected to offer amendments to end the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, as well as amendments on a budget-cutting package, on a deficit-control commission and other spending-related items.

Ehhh... I guess it's something. It doesn't seem like a heck of a lot.

One thing that I think is true: If McConnell only cared about getting home for the holidays, I think he and the rest of the GOP caucus could have just left, and left the Democrats alone in the Senate to pass whatever they wanted with their 60 votes. A filibuster is no longer a positive thing the opposition needs to affirmatively take steps to achieve; it's passive, by rule. You need 60 votes to close debate and 51 to carry a motion and stuff.

You don't need 40 votes to maintain a filibuster. You just need 60 votes for cloture. In essence, a filibuster is always on by default, and you need the 60 votes to stop debate.

So, I guess, McConnell's personal travel plans were unaffected either way; if he wanted to bug out, he could have.

I think. I think. Not 100% sure but usually my mistakes get corrected quickly by readers so I should know better shortly.

This doesn't seem like much of a concession but then, I guess, McConnell also wasn't offering a huge thing in return, either.


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posted by Ace at 12:50 PM

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