Yesterday, the House voted against raising the debt ceiling. 100 percent of Repubs who voted voted “nay,” while a weak majority of Dems voted “aye.” It was a symbolic vote, not to be taken too seriously, as evidenced by the fact that the stock market had a good day. This stuff is way over my head, but I do subscribe to the view that if the financial markets thought there were any serious possibility of a default, there would be a meltdown.
The House held recorded votes to raise the debt ceiling four times over the past decade (they managed to raise it three times without a recorded vote.) Of the four recorded vote times, two occurred since Barack Obama became president but while the Dems still controlled the House. In those Obama-era cases, the ceiling was raised with 100 percent Dem votes in the House and all Repubs opposed. In ’02 and ’04, with George W. Bush in the Oval Office and Repubs controlling the House, the debt ceiling was raised with 100 percent Repub votes and all Dems opposed.
This data is lifted from an excellent piece, which I missed when it was first published a month ago, by Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal. Seib, documenting the partisanship of debt ceiling votes, started with this example from the Senate:
“Iowa has two Senators, one a Republican (Charles Grassley), the other a Democrat (Tom Harkin).
Each has voted seven times since 2002 on a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Look back at those votes, and an interesting pattern emerges: Every time a Republican president has needed the debt ceiling raised to keep government functioning, Sen. Grassley, the Republican, has voted to raise it, while the Democrat, Sen. Harkin, has voted against it. But when a Democratic president has asked for an increase, their votes reverse: Sen. Harkin has voted in favor, and Sen. Grassley has voted against it.
That, in a nutshell, shows why it’s so absurd that Washington is headed toward a showdown over debt and the deficit tied to the question of whether to raise the national debt ceiling. Few exercises produce as much cynical and overtly partisan behavior by elected officials as do votes on the debt ceiling.”
By the way, if you want other examples of bipartisan hypocrisy, I stumbled on the Seib piece while reading a fresh post from Stu Rothenberg titled: Only Hypocrisy Is Truly Bipartisan.
But I do note that the Repubs are talking more and more often and more and more convincingly about their determination to block a debt ceiling hike unless they get what they want on spending cuts. Oops, I just looked and the markets are down fairly big so far today.