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February 12, 2014 3:45 PM Cruz Forces McConnell’s Hand

By Ed Kilgore

There’s obviously no love lost between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and one of his ostensible underlings, Ted Cruz. But Cruz may have earned a special place on McConnell’s enemies list today by filibustering the “clean” debt limit bill, which meant that Senate GOPers couldn’t emulate their House colleagues by letting Democrats pass the measure with little or no help. Here’s how Roll Call’s Steven Dennis described the action:

The Senate voted to advance a one-year debt limit hike Wednesday, after a cliffhanger vote ended with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, voting “aye.”
The Senate voted 67-31 to end a filibuster on the legislation threatened by tea party firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a vote that took nearly an hour to complete as senators wrestled with their decision. The Senate then proceeded to a vote on final passage with a simple majority threshold.
McConnell and Cornyn voted when the measure appeared stuck just short of the 60 votes needed.
A dozen Republicans voted with Democrats in all, most in a clump after McConnell and Cornyn led the way: John Barrasso of Wyoming, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Thune of South Dakota.

The movement of a bloc of GOP senators at the last minute was presumably intended to avoid any individual responsibility for “increasing the debt” or “surrendering to Harry Reid.” You will note that Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, and Pat Roberts—all primary bait this year—are nowhere to be found.

I’m sure McConnell, who has made a habit of voting with hard-core conservatives lately, wasn’t jazzed about having to provide a vote and some cover for the “surrender” (unless his advisers back home have concluded Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is a bigger threat to Mitch than primary opponent Matt Bevin). And some smoke will be momentarily blown when Republicans who voted for cloture vote against the underling bill. But Cruz will gain some more brownie points with conservative activists after today—and perhaps some bonus points after another 500 pundits write columns or pronounce on TV that the Republican Party has finally come to its senses and is discarding all that “constitutional conservative” crap.

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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