Cantor’s lonely vote for the debt ceiling increase

The House of Representatives passed a “clean” increase in the nation’s debt ceiling Tuesday evening by a 221-201 vote. The headline is how the measure was passed:

Twenty-eight Republicans voted for the bill, which means this debt ceiling vote was the most extreme example of violating the principle that the speaker does not bring a bill to the floor without a “majority of the majority” — the so-called Hastert Rule, named after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who broke that principle 12 times himself.

There are a number of reasons why Republicans balked at the debt hike, but putting the hand waving and throat clearing aside it all boiled down to politics.

Which makes the vote of Rep. Eric Cantor for the bill all the more interesting.

Cantor faces a primary challenge this year. There are two challengers, but the one who has gotten the most attention is Randolph-Macon economics Prof. David Brat. Brat is lining up the usual suspects in his run against Cantor, namely those who tend to think of the majority leader as little more than a corporatist shill.

Expect them to try to make considerable hay over Cantor’s debt ceiling vote. Whether they are able to turn it into support for their preferred alternative candidate is an open question.

But considering Cantor faces this challenge from his right, why on earth would he give them ammunition?

Because he doesn’t think it will matter to the folks back home.

House Speaker John Boehner gave Cantor and the handful of other Republicans who voted for it some cover:

Unable to sell their conference on their latest plan to raise the debt limit, Republican leaders plan to vote today on a “clean” debt limit increase.

“We don’t have 218 votes,” Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters. “When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing.”

So Boehner put it all on the Democrats — while rounding up just enough Republicans to see the measure passed (and there was no doubt that a debt increase would pass, one way or another).

In a press release, Cantor portrayed the vote this way:

Republicans are the only ones who acknowledge our debt crisis and have repeatedly attempted to help reverse the dangerous spending trend in Washington. While controlling only one chamber of one branch, we’ve successfully cut spending and passed bills to encourage economic growth. It is clear that President Obama and Congressional Democrats prefer to spend more, incur more debt and embrace a new normal of slow economic growth and joblessness, and that is unacceptable. House Republicans need more responsible and willing partners in Washington so we can finally and boldly address our long term debt crisis.”

Following the script and making a tough vote for the team. Which is what is expected of him.

But how will it play in the 7th congressional district?

That all depends on the creativity of all concerned parties. The primary is four months away. This vote may have faded into the background by then. Once there, though, it will join a host of other votes that Cantor foes will attempt to say are proof that Eric is not in tune with the district. Or fiscal sanity. Or something.

But that’s a hard case to make in 30 seconds or less. If anything, the debt vote shows Cantor is confident the vote won’t make a difference in the primary (where he is the heavy favorite) and that he believes his opponents just don’t have the means or the moxie to turn it into something bigger.

We shall see.

  • I can understand where Cantor is coming from on this. Symbolic votes on the debt ceiling are meaningless unless there’s fiscal restraint in Washington. Totally and completely empathize…

    …and let’s be honest. Cantor has actually proposed solutions — some of which were starting points that weren’t entirely popular — but at least he’s trying to fix the problem while the rest of Washington (and some others) are merely capitalizing off of the problem.

    I’d rather see congressmen out there trying to come to some sort of fix based on conservative principle than have them kick back, take the most philosophically strident position, and achieve nothing as the generational theft continues unabated. It’s not the most doctrinaire of positions… but Cantor is at least trying to fix the problem with a modicum of consensus.

    This conservative appreciates the effort, anyhow.

    • Doug Brown

      Both you and Cantor might want to apply the same practical, common sense approach to the immigration issue.

      • David Obermark

        Common sense says that if we provide a path to citizenship for current illegals in America, we might as well save the money and fire all the border guards and quit building fences. We might as well just have open borders and place out the welcome mat.

        If we give those here currently illegally citizenship, we will be deluged with a wave of illegals who will try to do what worked in the past. All they have to do is get in, fly under the radar, and wait for the next time. This is what happened under Reagan, it would have happened now under Obama, so it would not matter which party is in power at the time, all they have to do is be patient, it will happen again.

        Think illegal immigration is a problem now? Common sense says the problem will grow larger if we reward those who broke the law.

        I wish to add that I am not anti-Hispanic. Illegal immigration is not confined to Hispanics. Also, I think legal Hispanic citizens are a great addition to the great American Melting Pot. However I stand firmly against throwing our borders open or throwing out the welcome mat to anyone who chooses to enter illegally. Things would be different if there was more then enough for everyone, but America has finite resources and finite jobs available.

        • Justin Stroud

          That be “nativist” talk here at BD.

        • Doug Brown

          Common sense says fix the problem at its source. I would start in Missouri and Congressional hearings 2006-7..

          • David Obermark

            I am uninformed about that. Enlighten me.

    • Cantor did the right thing here.

      • David Obermark

        I am starting to think of Cantor as being a RINO. I like people who, even after they get into office, are capable of providing leadership. I really dislike people who try to lead the herd by simply trying to stay out front, follow the opinion polls, and avoid being trampled. I hate leaders who are just lemmings leading us over the cliff.

      • C Ken Davis Sr

        Brian, exactly how did he do the right thing?

        • Because he got the bill passed, he protected his must vulnerable members by taking a very bad vote when he’s got a primary opponent, and he put the issue behind us.

    • C. Richard

      Agree 100% – thank you for being reasonable!

  • Warmac9999

    Big government Republicanism is an assault on the conservative Republican base. We cannot gain control of runaway government spending by caving in to the Democrats. Make them openly responsible for what is happening and this will not do it. It is time for new leadership and time for courage.

    • This wasn’t caving in to the Democrats. It was recognizing that the votes simply weren’t there for anything but a clean debt ceiling raise. New leadership wouldn’t have made a difference and Cantor taking a tough vote so others in the party didn’t have to is the essence of good leadership.

      • Warmac9999

        We have a lawless presidency. Operating in a business as usual fashion is not going to cut it. The question I have is – so what if we take full control of both the House and the Senate, will anything change? The Constitution is the protection we the people have against the abuse of political power. As far as I can tell nobody but Ted Cruz and a couple of others actually speak for the Constitution and they are treated like pariahs by the establishment elite.

        Contrary to the idea just accepted of turning over control of the House to the Democrats, maybe we ought to actually exercise a few nuclear options of our own. How about we go point by point through the entire history of House power and see what is simply tradition and what is actually required. If good ole Harry can play games, than so can we.

        • While I disagree with most of what the President is doing, two wrongs don’t make a right. Defaulting on our debt or shutting the government down is not a rational response to the mistakes and overreaching of the Obama Administration.

          Every single Republican speaks for the Constitution. Ted Cruz and a couple of others speak for themselves and try to cloak themselves in the Constitution to give themselves cover. You can’t fight people engaging in extra-constitutional actions by abrogating your Constitutional responsibilities.

          We didn’t turn control of the House over to the Democrats. We put up a bill and let the House decide. That only 27 Republicans had the stones to vote to lift the debt ceiling so we don’t default on our debt is pathetic.

          Boehner can’t win. When he’s ruthless and puts the hammer down on members who get out of line, he’s a tyrant. When he puts things up to a vote and they fail, he can’t control his caucus. When he does the right thing but needs the Democrats to help him, he’s caving in to them. It gets tiresome to see the man constantly attacked by his own party for doing his job.

          • Warmac9999

            It isn’t about Boehner. It is about using every available tool and maybe inventing some new ones to blunt tyranny. I watched Reid invent a new tool, one he said would never be used. Unless we are prepared to fight with every tool available and maybe invent some new ones, we cannot expect the Republican base to blindly support our folks. You can criticize Cruz all you want, but he is wildly popular with the base because he not only speaks their truth but he is willing to put himself on the line with all the tools available to him. Is he a wacko bird, maybe – but then most of the republican base is a bunch of wacko birds tired of being told to just wait while watching the Constitution go up in flames.

            And once again, what profit is there for the country if we take over the senate in November and Obama just ignores the rule of law. You will have to excuse me if I cannot convince myself that it makes one wit of difference if we are going to continue on the current path.

          • Blunt tyranny? Really?

            Come on.

          • Warmac9999

            What do you call the lawless behavior? It certainly is outside constitutional boundaries. Pick any word you want.

          • I call it “what happens when we lose elections.”

          • Craig Scott

            It wasn’t so good when “we” won election either…

          • Craig Scott

            Brian, defaulting? We have already defaulted on the Federal debt (at least) twice in last 80 years and we are doing again. 1) 1933, FDR confiscating lawful tender of gold coin, while canceling all gold contracts (including US bonds) by executive fiat… 2) 1971, Nixon, closed the gold window, abrogating by executive fiat also, ending the gold exchange standard of a stable reserve of credit /debt via a US rubric by treaty. LBJ withdrawing lawful tender of silver in 1965, at least a partial default. While we confiscate again with out due process of law, the FED, writes checks out of thin air to “purchase” so called Treasuries, debasing your savings without so much as by your leave… violating Article I Sect. 8 & 10 of the Federal Constitution. This is a farce, and the US govt and all branches’ office holders are acting outside the law. Shame on us and what kind of world we are leaving our children…

          • Yeah, no.

          • Craig Scott

            Good argument my well meaning friend. Sophistry and criminality increasing apace and away of life for the Federal govt for the past 100s of years. Patrick Henry and George Mason were right, and the current system is failing, a mathematical certainty. What a sorry epitaph to the (now banana) republic. Buckle up boys and girls it is going to be a very bumpy ride starting later this year. As we continue toward the event horizon of a black whole of debt and this is despite confiscating retirement savings with MYRA, along with other skimming operations.

          • This is all nonsense. The current system isn’t failing at all.

          • Craig Scott

            Another great argument, denial is not only a river in Egypt apparently. You must have been inside the beltway to long, rotting infrastructure, municipalities beginning to default, purchasing power of your dollars shrinking continuously, a back door default on US debt. Greece here we come, we have been a depression since at least 2007. Trying going to SW Virginia or 1000s of other locations through this great land, outside the Potemkin village of the DC metro area. We are an empire in decline, with over 220 trillion bucks in liabilities at the Federal level alone.

            This old, but you’ll get the idea;

            Let’s getting our fiscal house in order already, cut all corporate welfare, close at least a half a dozen Cabinet departments, for starters…

          • Craig Scott

            Oh, wait are interests going up too? When rates go back historical normal levels, we are talking about at least several 100 billion in increased interest payments.

          • Gingrich never had these problems. Neither did DeLay.
            Face it Boehner is a follower not a leader.

          • Neither of those guys had real libertarians or the Tea Party. Gingrich barely had the 24 hour news cycle and didn’t have the internet, and DeLay was ruthless in a way that Boehner swore he’d never be.

          • Both Ron Paul and Steve Stockman were in the House at that point in time and had a fairly decent sized “liberty caucus”
            As far as no “tea party” the post 94 majority was just as strident on their pet issues as the TP are on theirs. A govt. Shutdown occurred within the first two years instead of in the 3rd.
            Gingrich however bended them to his will. Something Boehner is incapable of doing.
            Maybe Cantor will be better but I doubt it.

          • Alan

            Revenue far exceeds debt expenses. You’re adopting the democrat’s meme on this issue.

          • Our obligations don’t end on our debt servicing.

          • Alan

            At least you admit there’s a distinction between the two – that’s progress.

  • Jerel C. Wilmore

    There are “spending bills” and “paying bills.” If you walk into a restaurant and order a lavish meal, you are expected to pay the bill at the end of the night.

    If Republicans feel strongly about spending, then they should contest “spending bills,” not “paying bills.” Our defense spending is wildly out of control. The F-35 and the Zumwalt class destroyers are just two examples of defense contractors ripping off the American taxpayer. When will Republicans stand up to war profiteers?

    • The moment Democrats stop caving in to America’s enemies.

    • ghostofteddalton

      I agree with your first paragraph. The whole “debt ceiling” fight does make the GOP look like idiots. Fight on the spending bills. I’m all for a balanced budget. Make the hard cuts.

      But the word “hypocritical” does not do justice to the idea of authorizing and appropriating a spending plan with a deficit and then turning around and not raising the debt limit to cover the deficit that was approved in the budget/appropriations.

      Fight on the freaking budget and appropriation bills.

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  • mezurak

    Thanks to the New Democrats the debt should hit $22 Trillion in no time at all now. Better hurry up and quit your job so you can get your share instead of being the sucker paying.

  • VirginianVoter

    I personally applaud the House Leadership for getting this through, in whatever way possible. Republicans needed to avert a shutdown, and they still need to find a way to deal with UI and the minimum wage issues, which are Democrats’ ways to try and gain momentum. The focus needs to stay on Obamacare and the flaws of it. Ride the anti-Obamacare wave to a Senate majority, and then you’ll have some real leverage to block Obama’s appointees and make more favorable deals on fiscal issues and immigration. Do remember, very often Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats have disliked Obama’s deals with the GOP and won’t let them come up for a vote. At least this way the GOP has a lot more negotiating power.

    Also, will people stop trying to primary out Mitch McConnell? That is a seat the GOP could very well lose. Stop spending money on fellow Republicans. Focus on beating Democrats.

  • Alan

    Bankrupting the country is not the right thing.

  • Antoninus

    One of the biggest complaints TEA Party conservatives have against the establishment GOP leadership is their tendency to believe the progressive position on every issue is inevitable and they should not put up a fight right now, but wait for a better opportunity! Cantor is echoing the establishment line that the GOP needs to keep its powder dry “for the next big fight” while America is swirling down the drain and there is no time to wait for that next fight. The establishment is very keen on allowing perfection to be the enemy of good enough! They like to level this charge at us TEA Party conservatives for insisting they stand up and fight against Obama and his progressive agenda, but the establishment hasn’t found an opportune moment yet to make a stand and time is running out!

    The establishment Republicans and the progressive Democrats both occupy the same portion of the political spectrum on the big issue of the day which is continued unbridled government expansion. Americans are desperate for a real choice on this issue instead of the same old platitudes coming from both parties for fear of alienating the electorate. By occupying the same political space, they are insuring the alienation of the electorate, but their navel gazing does not allow them to recognize this fact. The TEA Party is poised to do well this year precisely because it DOES offer a clear alternative lying in a different portion of the political spectrum.

    The TEA Party stands for limited government based upon the Constitution in stark contrast to the government behemoth currently spying upon us through the NSA, targeting criticism of the progressive agenda through the IRS, and punishing conservative speech through the Justice Department! Obama has turned the unlimited power of the state against his critics, and his unconstitutional usurpation of power will only grow worse as more Americans realize what is occurring and start to push back!

    The Founders warned us to be careful in vesting power in government for ANY reason because that power would never be voluntarily surrendered and would be used against us by nefarious elements! They realized the situation and included the Second Amendment for that time they knew would come! Why do you think the only constitutional amendment the progressives seek to curtail is the Second, while they seek to expand all the rest? Because the Second Amendment is the one most threatening to their cause to enact socialism upon center-right America and destroy its standing both at home and abroad!

  • Scout

    This strikes me as an uncharacteristically intelligent and mature vote by Cantor. I continue to find him underwhelming, but I do give him high marks (as well as the other 27 Rs) for bailing on these goofy deficit votes. At some point we Republicans are going to have act like grown-ups and address issues seriously. If Cantor is belatedly figuring that out, better late than never. Even if it isn’t a sign of maturity, it’s still good politics. It gets this nonsense off the table until after the mid-terms, thus preserving the possibility that the Rs can actually pick up some seats in November.

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  • LastBestHope

    Talk about prescient. Give it up for Norman Leahy folks

    Sa-LUTE !!

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