Congressional Republicans have created quite a mess when it comes to the federal budget. The fiasco has become so ridiculous that yesterday on the Senate floor, Republican Sens. John McCain and Susan Collins blasted their own party's incoherence.
Without digging too deeply into the budget weeds, the story is relatively straightforward: the House and Senate both passed competing budget resolutions, which means it's time for a conference committee to work on a possible compromise. This was the process Republicans insisted upon.
But when Senate Democrats agreed and passed a budget plan of their own, GOP officials did a 180-degree turn, insisting on behind-closed-doors talks to negotiate what could be included in the negotiations. Specifically, Republicans are afraid the budget talks might include a debt-ceiling increase, which the far-right refuses to consider -- they still hope to hold the debt-ceiling increase hostage later this year, threatening to hurt the country on purpose unless Democrats accept concessions.
Even McCain finds all of this absurd. "What [do] we on my side of the aisle keep doing?" he argued on the Senate floor yesterday. "We don't want a budget unless -- unless -- we put requirements on the conferees that are absolutely out of line and unprecedented."
McCain added that the Republican position on budget talks is "a little bit bizarre."
Taking the other side was a familiar right-wing trio -- Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee -- which presented an argument that was truly amazing, even for them.
Dave Weigel reported yesterday:
What Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Mike Lee want -- and have wanted -- is a guarantee that a debt limit increase cannot be included in the budget agreement that comes out of the House and Senate conference. It only takes 51 votes to pass a budget. Cruz, on the floor, has asked the Senate to preserve the "traditional 60-vote threshold" for raising the debt limit.
This is a strange definition of "tradition."
It is, indeed. Between 1939 and 2010, the debt ceiling was raised 89 times. How many of those increases were subjected to the "60-vote threshold"? Zero. Even earlier this year, a debt-ceiling increase was approved with 52 votes, not 60.
It's possible Cruz doesn't understand what "traditional" means, so let's make this clear: the word generally refers to established or customary patterns of thought, action, or behavior. In this case, the established, customary pattern is for the Senate to vote up or down on debt-ceiling increases, often as part of the budget conference committee process.
What Cruz wants isn't traditional; it's unprecedented. Those tend to be the opposite of one another.
And as of yesterday, even some Senate Republicans are getting tired of this nonsense.