House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is urging his colleagues to vote down today’s “clean” debt limit extension to deprive the GOP of a political win, even though he and the majority of his caucus publicly favor the legislation.
His advice underscores the topsy-turvy politics of Tuesday’s upcoming vote on a Republican-sponsored bill that would raise the ceiling on government borrowing without tacking on any spending cuts or additional riders. While the legislation is exactly what most Democrats want to see pass, Republicans are bringing it to the floor with the expectation that it will fail — likely with unanimous GOP opposition. The point of the vote is to divide progressive and conservative Democrats and bolster Republican arguments that major cuts are needed to successfully pass a debt ceiling hike.
Hoyer is warning his colleagues not to be “politically gamed” by Republicans and instead to either vote “no” or “present” to deprive the vote of any legitimacy. He told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday that if the bill is “simply a political charade in which the overwhelmingly majority or all Republicans are going to vote no, I’m going to advise my members that they should not subject themselves to the demagoguery that would surely follow.”
Hoyer and other Democrats have complained that the bill is being debated under rules generally reserved for noncontroversial items that require a two-thirds majority to pass legislation and do not allow for any amendments. Hoyer reiterated to reporters his support for a debt limit increase, but indicated Democrats should only support a final deal with Republicans that is expected to pass.
“There’s not an option here,” he said. “You’re going to have to increase the debt limit. Every responsible leader in this Congress and this economy agrees with that.”
Some Democrats may still back today’s bill, however. Rep. Pete Welch (D-VT), who secured 114 Democratic signatures in support of a clean debt ceiling vote, told TPM that he would vote “yes” on Tuesday if only as a symbolic act.
“I’m going to vote for it, but I’m not advising anybody one way or the other,” he said. “This is a meaningless maneuver — the choice is do you want to vote a meaningless ‘yes’ or a meaningless ‘no.’”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.