It’s official now. The debt limit has been removed from the realm of legislative horse trading.
In a 64-34 vote, the Senate adopted House-passed legislation to extend the country’s borrowing authority through mid-May. The legislation also includes a rider withholding pay from members of Congress if their particular chamber fails to produce a budget by the statutory April 15 deadline.
By abandoning the principle that the debt limit can only be increased if its paired with concomitant spending cuts, Republicans effectively released their debt limit hostage. Just as importantly, they revealed that in the final analysis they’re not prepared to breach the debt limit and send the economy into a tailspin to force conservative policy objectives on to the country.
That suggests the danger of debt limit brinksmanship is permanently behind us. But we won’t know for sure until the summer, when the debt limit will have to be increased again.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.