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October 30, 2013 10:52 AM The Contortionist

By Ed Kilgore

I’m going to try to go through this latest fiscal policy development with a stern visage, leaving the abuse towards it perpetrators to Charlie Pierce, who is better at it than I am. Here’s the facts, per TPM’s Sahil Kapur:

Twenty-seven Republican senators voted with Democrats on Oct. 16 to lift the debt ceiling and avert a catastrophic default. And each one of those 27 senators voted Tuesday to “disapprove” of their own votes.
The vote Tuesday was a symbolic “resolution to disapprove” of the debt limit hike. It was mandated by the deal thanks to a last-minute provision inserted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The motion failed 45-54 because all Democrats opposed it.
Even if it passed Congress, it wouldn’t have stopped the debt limit hike because President Obama could veto the measure. The purpose was to give these senators the chance to say they disapprove of a deal they voted for.

But wait, it gets better: even as they were voting to disapprove their earlier votes to save the Republic, Senate Republicans (most especially McConnell) were violently objecting to legislation that would make this sort of procedure the way the debt increase would be handled routinely. Here’s TPM’s Kapur again in a separate piece:

Despite trying and failing twice this year to extract a ransom for lifting the debt ceiling, Republicans were defiant Tuesday against newly introduced legislation designed to permanently eliminate the threat of a debt default.
The proposal was unveiled by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who emphasized repeatedly that it was modeled on a backup proposal by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) during the 2011 debt limit standoff….
Here’s how the bill would work: The president would be able to unilaterally lift the debt ceiling when necessary, and Congress would be able to vote to “disapprove” of it. If the motion to disapprove passes, the president could veto it, and Congress would need to muster up a two-thirds majority to override the veto. In short, it would de-weaponize the debt ceiling.
“So, bottom line: Senator McConnell was right when he proposed this rule in 2011,” Schumer said. “We need to take default off the table. … We want to put the fire out for good.”
McConnell swiftly rejected the proposal as “outrageous” and a “gimmick,” vowing that no Republican senators would support it….
A “motion to disapprove” was included in the most recent debt limit hike earlier this month — but not for future hikes. A Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations said McConnell “specifically asked for this resolution of disapproval to be put in, knowing that there wouldn’t be any spending cuts in the agreement. So this was something that he asked for at the last minute.”

So it appears McConnell’s position is that Congress should be able to continue to hold debt increases hostage, but once they’ve approved them, they should also be given an opportunity to disapprove them and then blame the failure of their retroactive disapproval on a presidential veto.

Truly, the contortions involved here are worthy of the circus, if McConnell’s looking for a moonlighting gig.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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