Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

House of Representatives votes to continue paying America’s bills past midterm elections

With the memory of last autumn’s disastrous manufactured fiscal crisis and completely unnecessary federal government shutdown still fresh in their minds, the leadership of the U.S. House Republican Caucus today allowed a bill to come to the floor to authorize the U.S. Department of the Treasury to pay the nation’s bills for another year, through the midterm elections and into March 2015.

Twenty eight Republicans joined with one hundred and ninety-three Democrats to send the legislation to the United States Senate. The overall vote was two hundred and twenty-one to two hundred and one. Two Democrats (John Barrow of Georgia and Jim Matheson of Utah) sided with the remaining Republicans.

“Tonight’s vote is a positive step in moving away from the political brinkmanship that’s a needless drag on our economy,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement following the vote. “The American economy is moving forward, but there is much more to do to ensure that more middle class Americans – and those striving to get into it – can get ahead.”

“Congress can start by raising the minimum wage so that no one who works full time raises their family in poverty, restoring emergency unemployment insurance for the 1.7 million Americans searching every day for a job who need this vital lifeline to support their families, and taking additional steps to strengthen our economy and restore opportunity for all Americans.”

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader (OR); Republicans Doc Hastings and Dave Reichert (WA)

Voting Nay: Republicans Jaime Herrera-Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Greg Walden (OR) Mike Simpson and Raúl Labrador (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Don Young (AK)

With the exceptions of Dave Reichert and Doc Hastings, the entire Republican side of the Pacific Northwest’s congressional delegation irresponsibly voted not to authorize Treasury to pay the nation’s bills. Shame on all of them.

U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene, who represents NPI’s home district in Congress, explained her aye vote in a statement released to media outlets a short time ago.

“The House’s bipartisan vote today ends the risk of America defaulting for the next year, helping us move past another manufactured fiscal crisis that could have been addressed months ago,” she said. “Failure to raise the debt ceiling would have resulted in serious consequences for our economy and the middle class.”

“Today’s vote was the responsible action to take.”

We agree, and we thank her and the other Democrats from the Northwest, along with Dave and Doc, for their aye votes.

It is notable that Democrats supplied eighty-seven percent of the aye votes for this legislation. It just goes to show that even when Republicans are in charge, they’re incapable of governing. They dither, bicker, and squabble until the eleventh hour, and then they fracture once it’s do-or-die time. As the New York Times explained:

Mr. Boehner stunned House Republicans Tuesday morning when he ditched a package that would have tied the debt ceiling increase to a repeal of cuts to military retirement pensions that had been approved in December and announced he would put a “clean” debt [repayment] ceiling increase up for a vote.

Enough Republicans had balked at that package when it was presented Monday night to convince the speaker he had no choice but to turn to the Democratic minority. It was another startling display of Republican disunity, fueled by the political ambitions of members seeking higher office and personal animus that burst into the open.

Angry right wing groups are calling for Boehner to be removed as speaker. That’s unlikely to happen, but it shows that the divisions within the Republican Party are deepening. Boehner and Cantor had no choice but to take a couple dozen Republicans with them and partner with Democrats to vote out this bill.

They know that further hostage-taking will only hurt their party’s standing. They simply can’t afford a return to the headlines of last October.

They were willing to side with the Republican Party base last fall because they thought they could best the White House in a game of chicken. But, unlike in the summer of 2011, President Obama refused to yield to their demands.

In mid-October, Republicans were forced to agree to end the completely unnecessary government shutdown they caused and allow Treasury to pay the bills for a few more months without having extracted any meaningful concessions.

We had wondered since whether they would try to once again use the threat of default as leverage for a grab bag of goodies. It certainly seems that many of them wanted to. But John Boehner correctly concluded there was nothing to gain and everything to lose. He and Eric Cantor thus allowed the Republican caucus to fracture, relying on Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to provide the crucial votes needed to keep the United States of America from defaulting.

Democrats control the Senate, so assuming Republicans’ attempt to block this legislation from consideration can be overcome (Ted Cruz has, unsurprisingly, promised to filibuster it), it will soon be on President Obama’s desk.

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