February 13

Tea party tees off on McConnell after debt vote

The vote was a fresh reminder that while Republicans see a legitimate chance of grabbing the majority in the Senate, fissures within the party could trip them up.

By Donna Cassata
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, arrives on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Cruz, the tea party darling who has caused heartburn for his Republican colleagues in the Senate, insisted on a 60-vote threshold for the Senate to proceed to legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills.

The Associated Press

The debt measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay Social Security benefits, federal salaries and bills from Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the legislation stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election. The bill approved Wednesday is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn’t let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance.

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said Cruz was “entitled to his position,” and added: “To be a leader you have to do very hard things. He’s new here.”

Republicans weren’t the only ones willing to reverse course just days after insisting otherwise. Senate Democrats abandoned their insistence that the cost of restoring the full military pension be allowed to add to the government’s deficit. Instead, they joined Republicans in backing the House-passed measure that offsets the price tag by extending previously approved cuts elsewhere in the budget for another year, until 2024.

The Senate voted 95-3 for the measure, one day after the House approved it, 326-90. The White House said Obama would sign it.

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