For Reid, Durbin, and Obama, a (very) Partisan Record on Debt Ceiling

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From the Washington Examiner:

By Byron York 

July 30, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has frequently accused Republicans of playing partisan politics in the debt ceiling crisis. “The moment for partisan games is long since passed,” Reid said on July 21.  “It is time for patriots on both sides of the aisle to join hands and actually govern.”  On July 26, Reid released a statement headlined REPUBLICANS PUT POLITICS AHEAD OF THE ECONOMY.  And on July 24, Reid cast himself as a bipartisan compromiser, trying to talk sense into his partisan adversaries.  “We hope Speaker Boehner will abandon his ‘my way or the highway’ approach,” Reid said, “and join us in forging a bipartisan compromise.”

A look at Reid’s record, however, shows that in the last decade his own voting on the issue of the debt ceiling is not only partisan but perfectly partisan. According to “The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases,” a January 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service, the Senate has passed ten increases to the debt limit since 2000.  Reid never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control of the Senate, and he always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control.

Other Democrats have also accused Republicans of partisanship in the debt fight. “It’s time for bipartisan leadership, not partisan gamesmanship,” said the number-two Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin, after Republicans pulled out of budget talks with President Obama.  And Obama himself described the debt debate as a “partisan three-ring circus” — leaving no doubt that it is Republicans who are practicing partisanship.

At look at Durbin’s record shows that he, too, has voted along absolutely partisan lines.  In the last decade, Durbin never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control and always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control.  As for Obama, there were four votes to raise the debt ceiling when he was in the Senate.  He missed two of them, voted no once when Republicans were in charge, and voted yes once when Democrats were in charge.

Here are the ten votes to raise the debt ceiling since 2000, according to the Congressional Research Service report. Some were standalone measures, and others were included in larger legislation:

** On June 11, 2002, with the Senate in Democratic hands due to the defection of Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Jim Jeffords, the Senate passed a debt limit increase to bring the total national debt to $6.400 trillion.  Reid and Durbin voted yes.

** On May 23, 2003, with the Senate in Republican hands after the November 2002 mid-term elections, the Senate passed a debt limit increase to bring the total debt to $7.384 trillion.  Reid and Durbin voted no.

** On November 17, 2004, the Senate passed a debt limit increase to bring the total debt to $8.184 trillion.  Reid voted present.  Durbin voted no.  (In remarks on the Senate floor, Reid claimed that he would have liked to vote yes on increasing the limit, but that he had agreed to “live pair” his vote with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was absent but intended to vote no.  Reid explained the two had made a deal to cancel out each other’s votes. “I, therefore, withhold my vote,” he said of the maneuver, which allowed him to say he would vote yes without actually voting yes.)

** On March 16, 2006, the Senate passed a debt limit increase to bring the total debt to $8.965 trillion.  Reid voted no, as did Durbin and Obama, then in his second year in the Senate.

** On September 27, 2007, with the Senate back in Democratic hands after the 2006 mid-term elections, the Senate passed a debt limit increase to bring the national debt to $9.815 trillion.  Reid and Durbin voted yes.  Obama, running for president, did not vote.

** On July 26, 2008, the Senate passed a debt limit increase included in the Housing and Recovery Act of 2008 to bring the national debt to $10.615 trillion.  Reid and Durbin voted yes.  Obama did not vote.

** On October 1, 2008, the Senate passed a debt limit increase included in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to bring the national debt to $11.315 trillion.  Reid, Durbin, and Obama voted yes.

** On February 13, 2009, the Senate passed a debt limit increase included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus bill, which increased the national debt to $12.104 trillion.  Reid and Durbin voted yes.

** On December 24, 2009, the Senate passed a debt limit increase to bring the total debt to $12.394 trillion.  Reid and Durbin voted yes.

** On January 28, 2010, the Senate passed a debt limit increase to bring the national debt to $14.294 trillion.  Reid and Durbin voted yes.

The pattern of Reid’s and Durbin’s voting is difficult to miss:  If Republicans control the Senate, they vote against raising the debt ceiling.  If Democrats control the Senate, they vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling.

It is a fact of life on Capitol Hill that the party in control of Congress bears the responsibility of raising the debt ceiling.  That can become a difficult task when control of the House and Senate is split between Republicans and Democrats, as it is now.  One might think it would make leaders who have voted along strictly partisan lines think twice before denouncing the other party as partisan.  But it has not prevented Reid, Durbin, and Obama from doing just that.

LINK

****Written by Byron York****

**emboldened dates added**

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