Two weeks after a bipartisan Senate agreement averted a potential default on federal debt that business leaders warned would be “catastrophic” for the U.S. economy, 45 Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to rescind the president’s authority to pay the bills Congress has already racked up.
Under the agreement passed earlier this month, President Obama has the authority to suspend the debt limit through February 7, 2014 — but Congress gets an opportunity to vote to disapprove this move. With every Democrat voting no, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) motion to let the government default failed, 54 to 45.
In the George W. Bush administration, 27 of the Republicans in the current Senate voted to raise the debt limit. Among them was Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who explained the bill was “necessary to preserve the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government.” He observed that “without an increase in the debt limit, our Government will face a choice between breaking the law by exceeding the statutory debt limit, or breaking faith with the public by defaulting on our debt. Neither choice is acceptable.” Grassley voted Tuesday to force exactly that choice.
Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who is recovering from heart surgery, was not present for the vote, but indicated that he would have voted with his GOP colleagues in a statement submitted into the Congressional Record.
Of the 45 Republicans voting against preserving the full faith and credit of the United States of America, 27 had actually voted for the deal that setup this process, including McConnell.
The U.S. House will now cast a now-symbolic vote on Rep. Todd Young’s (R-IN) House version on Wednesday afternoon. Eighty seven current House Republicans backed debt limit increases under President Bush.
In the House, 219 Republicans and three conservative Democrats also voted for debt default. Voting against the measure were 187 Democrats and four Republicans; two Republicans voted “present.”