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February 13, 2014 10:04 AM Hypocrite’s Corner

By Ed Kilgore

As you will be shocked to learn, all twelve Senate Republicans who supported cloture on the debt limit bill yesterday voted against the actual bill. That was appropriate given the happy celebration of Republican hypocrisy we’ve been witnessing in most of the MSM this week.

Before we look at that phenomenon, let’s just note for the record that the bicameral GOP vote on this “must-pass” legislation that any sane person would support was 28/244. Because Republicans “allowed” it to pass with mostly Democratic votes, they (and particularly their two Leaders, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell) are being toasted for their wise statesmanship, and you can almost hear strains of “Happy Days Are Here Again” as many Beltway types wonder if something similar can be engineered on an immigration bill.

Am I the only one who feels a bit squeamish about touting this Brave New World where one of our two major political parties solves its “collective action problem” via such rank duplicity?

Well, no: here is the New York TimesCarl Hulsey:

[T]he House vote to raise the debt limit and stifle the budget wars was remarkable not only for its lack of brinkmanship, but for the vote count itself. The 28 members of the Republican majority who voted for the bill — a meager 12 percent — was the lowest percentage for a majority on passage since the House began publishing electronic data on votes in 1991. It has to rank among the lowest ever for a body defined by strict majority rule….
For a bill to pass the House with such scant support from the party in control, most members of the Republican majority had to quietly want it to pass to avoid the real-world consequences — an economy-rattling default — while being able to vote against it to dodge a backlash from conservative activists threatening repercussions. It was the purest incarnation yet of what has become known as the Vote No, Hope Yes Caucus.
The Senate vote was similar. Most Republicans badly wanted the debt limit to be raised — particularly since the House had already left town and Wall Street was unlikely to look kindly on a potential default. They just did not want their fingerprints on it.
The implications for governing are obvious. If many lawmakers are unwilling or refuse to vote for legislation that they understand to be necessary, and even beneficial, out of fear of retribution from an empowered and outspoken wing of their party, reaching agreement on major policy like immigration becomes difficult if not impossible.

To put it another way, what just happened was probably the last, not the first of many, violations of the Hastert Rule we are are going to see from John Boehner, and the last, not the first of many, efforts by Mitch McConnell to give “cover” to a batch of GOP senators sneaking across the aisle to kill a Ted Cruz filibuster.

Anyone pleased that we have dodged the debt limit bullet and perhaps ended debt default threats for good should praise the Democrats from the White House on down who forced Republicans into a Hypocrite’s Corner instead of praising the hypocrites themselves.

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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