House Speaker John Boehner, despite criticism from House tea partiers, acted prudently Tuesday in allowing the chamber to vote on a so-called “clean” bill to suspend the debt ceiling.
The measure passed 221-201, and did so because 28 Republicans, including Rep. Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, joined 193 Democrats; 199 Repub-licans and two Democrats opposed the bill.
As a strategy change, Rep. Boehner’s decision not to demand concessions from President Barack Obama was wise. Republicans, particularly the GOP House majority, took a public relations beating for the government shutdown last year for demanding changes to Obamacare as part of a budget bill. Those demands led to the shutdown that ended only when Rep. Boehner called for a vote on a fairly clean bill. Like the present legislation, it passed with minimal Republican support.
Whether his intended audience was the American public or House tea partiers, Rep. Boehner didn’t want to take credit for showing genuine leadership. He blamed the president for the bill.
“Understand it’s the president driving up the debt and the president wanting to do nothing about the debt that’s occurring…” he said. “And so let his party give him the debt ceiling increase that he wants.”
Suspension of the debt ceiling also is what a lot of Americans want, even many who are concerned about our nation’s debt. In suspending the debt ceiling until March 2015, the House bill, if it becomes law, would allow the Treasury the flexibility to borrow enough money to continue to write Social Security checks and pay federal workers, among other responsibilities.
Had Rep. Boehner thought he would win another showdown with the president on this topic, he might have risked another shutdown. That, however, would likely have diminished Republican candidates’ chances in this fall’s election — an election in which they hope to strengthen their House majority and perhaps even win control of the Senate.
The Senate was to take up the House bill today. There, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a vocal tea party champion, indicated Tuesday that he would try to filibuster the measure in hopes of forcing Democrats to need 60 votes, more than they’ll be able to muster. Other Republican senators, who like Rep. Boehner don’t want to get blamed for obstructing important legislation, were advising against the tactic.
Sen. Cruz would be wise to heed their advice.