by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Conventional wisdom holds that last week’s vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to approve a debt limit and spending reduction bill is meaningless. Democrats called the legislation dead on arrival in the Senate, making whatever the House decides to do on its own irrelevant.
As with many things in Washington, the corporate media’s conventional wisdom is wrong.
Approving a debt limit bill did more than dispel the narrative that the Republican House, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will remain perpetually in disarray. By eliminating one of the major elements of Democrats’ political argument, it raised questions about their own strategic endgame.
Under the traditional, “Schoolhouse Rock” version of lawmaking, the House would pass its version of a bill, the Senate would pass its version, and the two would convene a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile the differences between the measures. That outcome seems unlikely regarding this debt limit increase.
Virtually all Democrats support a so-called “clean” debt limit increase. That is, they want to extend the limit on the nation’s credit card without any accompanying spending reforms. (They claim they will discuss spending levels in separate legislation, just not as part of the debt limit.)
But most legislation requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and advance in the Senate, and Democrats only hold 51 Senate seats. As a result, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., must persuade nine Republicans — 10 if Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who continues to recover from a case of shingles in California, remains absent from the Senate — to approve a clean debt limit increase for the measure to clear the chamber. That scenario appears unlikely, as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would lean on his troops not to approve a Schumer-led measure.