(AKA: Scenes from the messaging war)
So today, one week into the GOP-orchestrated shutdown of the federal government (and fast approaching the debt ceiling fight), a conservative friend on Twitter links me to this bit of old video the Daily Caller dug up:
I haven’t checked, but given from whence this video came to my attention, I’ve no doubt it’s currently rocketing around the conservative blogo- and twitter-spheres with many exclamation points attached to it, offered up as Exhibit A of the fecklessness and hypocrisy of the Democrats, especially that worst-of-all specimen, Harry Reid.
It’s a nice story and, like much that makes for exclamation point-worthy news items in the conservative “news” sphere, at first blush, it even appears to have something to it. However (also like most such conservative-messaging factoids), that initial blush of apparent relevance drastically collapses upon even the most cursory glance.
In this case, you’ll notice that toward the end of the video above, the C-SPAN chyron says it was from the March 2006 debt-limit vote. Specifically, it was House Joint Resolution 47 of 2006 which Reid was discussing. A quick check of govtrack.us, a web site which publishes such data*, reveals that the Senate vote on that debt-limit increase was (much like today’s votes on the debt limit) an almost completely partisan affair. The interesting thing, though, is the alignment of the partisan votes. Listening to the Republican party of today – around half of whom were in the Senate at the time of this vote in 2006 – the worst thing that could possibly happen is more government borrowing and spending. You’ve heard this a million times. I’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it. So, how did that 2006 vote on the debt limit actually go? Like this:
If anyone’s curious on the details, the outliers are as follows: Arlen Specter (D-Recently Republican) voted for the debt limit increase, while Tom Coburn (R-OK), Conrad “Montgomery” Burns (R-MT), and John Ensign (R-SexyTimeHushMoney) voted against it. Everyone else voted along straight party lines…only it was the GOP who voted, en masse, FOR raising the debt limit.
That’s right: Senators like Mitch McConnell and Jim DeMint voted for raising the nation’s spending limit. That’s not a typo. Those colors in the above graphic haven’t been inadvertently flipped by the casual error of a low-level clerk at govtrack. The Senate GOP, only seven years ago, voted nearly unanimously to raise the debt limit.
Why? Well, it’d be irresponsible not to speculate, so allow me: because a Republican was President. Unfortunately for the GOP, by 2006, the wolves had closed in on the Bush administration and, in eight months, would close in on the Congressional GOP as well. Two wars (both ruinously expensive and at least one completely unnecessary), three rounds of tax cuts during wartime, and various other measures (like the huge, unfunded mandate of Medicare Part D) had combined to drive President Bush’s approval rating to new lows (between 36 and 39 percent the week of this vote, depending on which poll you checked). The memory of the budget surpluses Bill Clinton left to the GOP seemed like only a half-remembered fever-dream by the time of that big-deficit-spending era of 2006.
Now that the Franco-Kenyan neo-Marxist Obamunist dictator whose skin color totally does not matter is in the White House, though? Well, many of these same Republican Senators claim to have always – always, I tell you! – been opposed to the intolerable sin of deficit spending. I guess they must just assume we have no memory of these events – and also no access to google or the rest of the Internet. Much as the Daily Carlson apparently expects no one to check these things, either.
Oh, and as to why Harry Reid would speak against, and virtually all the Democrats would vote against, the debt ceiling hike? Simple: because they were a minority. At the time of that vote, there were 54 Republicans in the Senate and 45 Democrats (also one Independent, Jim Jeffords, who had formerly been a Republican). That means even if every single Democrat had voted against HJ Res 47, they could not have prevented the GOP from raising the debt limit. So that’s what they did (with the exception of Arlen Specter): they cast what amounted to a vote of protest against the misuse of the government by the Bush administration on so many fronts, knowing both that an election was coming in eight months AND that there was no chance the debt limit wouldn’t be raised. Had enough Republicans broken with their caucus to make the possibility of a default-vote in the Senate a real possibility, some very different floor speeches (and Democratic votes) would have taken place.
How do we know this? Because the actions of the Democrats then are not comparable to the actions of the Republicans today. Neither Reid nor any other Democrats were looking aggressively for ways they could actually force a larger majority to default on the full faith and credit of the United States (unless they got their way). Today, that is exactly what the GOP is threatening: do what we want with regard to Obamacare, or we’ll allow default. Not comparable in the slightest.
* ironically, govtrack.us had a top-banner today which read:
During the shutdown the Senate and the Library of Congress are no longer providing timely updates to legislative information. As a result, some information on GovTrack may fall out of date during this time.