Mitch McConnell sided with “the vast majority,” and won the praise of Bob Corker, a fellow Republican in the U.S. Senate. Corker applauded the minority leader for showing “tremendous courage” in voting Wednesday to raise the country’s debt ceiling, no spending reductions or other strings attached.
McConnell and his deputy, John Cornyn, provided the decisive votes in ending a Republican filibuster and avoiding another Washington showdown, the most recent having closed the federal government for 16 days last fall. That episode did not play well for Republicans, and party leaders want to stay away from a repeat performance. So McConnell did what was politically necessary for the party, not to mention essential for the country, a higher debt ceiling required to pay the country’s bills and remove the prospect of flirting with a calamitous default.
And this qualifies as courageous today, doing what most “understood needed to occur,” as Corker put it? John Boehner, the House speaker, took a similar stance, defying arch conservatives, bringing the “clean” debt-ceiling bill to a vote.
Worth noting is that just 28 House Republicans and 12 in the Senate joined their leaders and Democrats in passing the bill. David Joyce of Russell Township, Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and others protected their right flank. They did so knowing the fallout of failing to approve a higher debt ceiling, markets unnerved, financial stability threatened. They know the higher ceiling covers spending already approved.
The past few years, the Obama White House and lawmakers have approved $3.28 trillion in deficit reduction for the next 10 years, 80 percent of which involves spending reductions. Unfortunately, Congress often has cut at the expense of needed investment, for instance, research and education, or the poor and vulnerable. It has yet to confront the real drivers of deficits for the long term, especially spending on health care.
If anything has been learned, it is that a debt-ceiling deal serves as a lousy vehicle for such momentous decision-making. It has been a tool for fanning false impressions. So it is a good thing that McConnell, Boehner and others have joined Democrats in putting off another potential confrontation until March 2015.
Deserving of the description “courageous” would be a balanced mix of well-targeted tax increases and spending reductions, Democrats and Republicans bridging differences, swallowing hard in the interests of the country.