McCarthy’s debt deal was supposedly the greatest spending cut of all time. Yet those cuts must have fooled everyone else, because
all but six Democrats voted for the bill in the Senate, while Republican senators opposed it 32-17. This latest betrayal is the culmination of years’ worth of GOP perfidy on the most important budget bills, in which each one garnered more support from Democrats than Republicans no matter which branch of government Republicans controlled.
Here's the dirty little secret: Republicans will never garner 60 votes in the Senate, even in the best-case scenario of taking back the White House and the majority in the Senate next year. Thus, aside from budget reconciliation once a year, they will have to be willing to engage in some sort of hardball and brinksmanship with Democrats. Yet they have demonstrated that no matter the leverage point, no matter which branch they control, no matter the polling on the issues in contention, they will give the Democrats what they want.
Thus, with control of the House, they passed this $4 trillion debt limit suspension with greater Democrat than Republican support in both chambers. You will hear the excuse that they don’t have enough power, but let’s review once again the previous budget deals when they had control of all three branches.
Here is the voting tally of the most important spending bills in 2017 and 2018 when Republicans had both houses of Congress and Trump was president.
H.R. 244 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017)
Senate: Supported by every Democrat and opposed by 18 Republicans ( May 4, 2017)
House: Supported by Democrats 178-15; supported by Republicans 131-103 ( May 3, 2017)
H.R. 601 (2017 blank check debt limit increase)
Senate: Supported by every Democrat and opposed by 17 Republicans ( Sept. 7, 2017)
House: Supported by every Democrat; supported by Republicans 133-90 ( Sept. 8, 2017)
TARGET Act (FY 2018 omnibus)
Senate: Supported by all but six Democrats; opposed by 26 Republicans ( March 23, 2018)
House: Opposed by 77 Dems (supported by Pelosi); opposed by 90 Republicans ( March 22, 2018)
FY 2019 “Cromnibus”
Senate: Supported by every Democrat except Bernie Sanders; opposed by six Republicans ( Sept. 18, 2018)
House: Opposed by just five Democrats; opposed by 56 Republicans ( Sept. 26, 2018)
2018 Trillion-dollar farm bill (read more here)
Senate: Supported by every Democrat; 13 Republicans opposed it (Dec. 11, 2018)
House: All but three Democrats supported it; 44 Republicans opposed it ( Dec. 12, 2018)
As you can see, that was a historic failure. Contrast that to the Democrat trifecta of the first two years of Biden, during which, despite narrow majorities in the House (the same size majority Republicans have today), they never had a problem passing left-wing priorities.
Well, perhaps you might say they ironically had less leverage with control of all three branches because, on the one hand they had the responsibility to govern, but on the other hand, they didn’t have 60 votes in the Senate to unilaterally steamroll Democrats.
Let’s return to 2019-2020, when the GOP had the White House and a simple majority in the Senate but not the House.
FY 2019 Homeland Security omnibus bill that ended shutdown without funding border wall
Senate: Opposed by just three Dems (all running for president); opposed by 13 Republicans ( Feb. 14, 2019)
House: Opposed by just 19 Democrats; opposed by 109 (majority of) Republicans ( Feb. 14, 2019)
Debt ceiling increase and busting of budget caps
Senate: Supported by all but four Democrats; opposed by 24 Republicans ( Aug. 1, 2019)
House: Passed by Democrats 219-16; opposed by roughly two-thirds of Republicans ( July 25, 2019)
5,593-page FY 2021 omnibus with COVID bailout for states and education cartel
Senate: Supported by every single Democrat; opposed by six Republicans ( Dec. 21, 2020)
House: Supported by all but 2 Democrats; opposed by 50 Republicans ( Dec. 21, 2020)
This last bill was the longest bill in American history.
As you can see, it never made a difference whether Republicans had all three branches, two branches, or just the House. Democrats win every time.
So where do we go from here? All my colleagues will say, “Well, just win the 2024 elections.” But if you believe that this alone will change things, you were born yesterday. Absent a change in leadership or a new political party, we will continue to repeat the cycle. When Trump was asked about the debt deal on an Iowa radio show, he apathetically answered, “It is what it is.”
Interestingly, the same man who aggressively engaged in the speakership fight on the side of McCarthy didn’t wield his heavy influence this past week to demand that McCarthy pull the bill. Trump remained silent when the ball was in play – the same way he did with each and every one of the horrendous budget bills he signed during his presidency. During the speakership fight, we were on the cusp of extracting more concessions that would have prevented McCarthy from doing this, but Freedom Caucus members were getting browbeaten by Trump, who was demanding they take his call on the House floor in support of his chosen RINO.
Again, Republicans will never get 60 votes in the Senate to pass almost anything worthy, so the budget bills are the only leverage point to use. But if the current group of leaders – Trump, McConnell, and McCarthy – are terrified to engage in brinksmanship, then we will never change anything. Trump’s handpicked candidate for speaker has now continued his legacy of telegraphing so much fear of brinksmanship to the Democrats that he’s willing to pass a deal with greater Democrat support. Do you really think this will change in 2025?
What’s the definition of insanity again?