By Jacob Winkelman
Last week Congress passed a clean debt celling increase ensuring that the United States would thankfully not default on its debt. However, this once simple procedure has of late become an attempted bargaining chip for the dramatic chaos that is the current GOP. Recently, many moderate Republicans have adopted the unreasonable “vote no, hope for yes” tactic on basic spending legislation. Basically, many Republicans understand essential bills such as raising the debt ceiling, the farm bill, and the annual budget need to pass for the sake of the country and the benefit of the Republican Party. One only need to think back to September to remember how much political damage the GOP took when they refused to pass a basic spending bill and catalyzed the government shutdown. However, Tea Party groups and Super PACs consistently threaten any Republican who votes yes on bipartisan legislation with a well-funded, primary challenger. This results in Republicans who are forced to vote no on important legislation for personal political reasons but who want the legislation to pass anyway for the sake of party politics. Lately more Republicans have stood up to the Tea Party and voted yes, but not before trying to find any way to avoid it.
This brings us to last week’s deficit bill. After Republicans failed to agree on demands to add on to a clean debt ceiling increase, John Boehner told Republicans he was going to allow for a vote on a clean measure. With 188 Democrats and 29 Republicans the debt ceiling increase passed (barely) and moved on to the Senate. Once in the Senate Mitch McConnell and other Republicans surprisingly advocated for a simple majority vote on the bill instead of attempting another filibuster. This way 55 Democrats could vote yes, no Republicans would have to suffer political retribution from a yes vote, and the credit of the United States could still be intact. But, as we have seen over the past four years, nothing is simple with this Congress in control.
Enter Tea Party icon, Ted Cruz. The Senator from Texas was determined to insure that the “real conservatives” could separate themselves from the RINOs (Republican In Name Only). Cruz decided to filibuster the debt-ceiling bill in order to require 60 votes instead of 55 for the measure to come to the floor. This forced Mitch McConnell and other moderate Republicans to join the yes votes and hurt their reputation with far right constituents. Eventually 12 other Republicans joined McConnell in order to give him some political protection, but this vote has already given plenty of ammunition to his primary competitor who can now accuse Senator McConnell of working with Democrats- a likely death sentence for any Republican in a primary. On the final vote not a single Senate Republican voted yes but the damage was already done.
Ordinarily, raising the debt ceiling would not be anything newsworthy or remarkable. Under President Bush, Republicans raised it over 15 times without complaint or demanding concessions. But this Congress has repeatedly shown itself willing to block even the most necessary government spending. Now Mitch McConnell and other moderate Republicans stand to lose their primaries to more extreme candidates. While Ted Cruz and the rest of the Tea Party might be excited at the moment, the end results might not be as rewarding. As we saw in 2012 with candidates like Todd Akin from Missouri (“Legitimate Rape” guy) and Richard Mourdock from Indiana (“babies from rape are a gift from God” guy), crazy doesn’t always fare so well in the general election. Americans want reasonable people in charge, but if Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz continue to force out the more moderate members of their party they may squander their opportunity to take back the Senate.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.