Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Our Long National Nightmare Is (Almost) Over

It happened a little quicker than we expected, as we assumed that the "show horse" senators would extend their preening and posturing into Friday before the "work horse" senators took care of business. In truth, however, the leadership of the upper chamber, on both sides of the aisle, tolerated just 3 hours of political performance art before approving the debt-ceiling bill.

The vote for the bill was 63 to 34; that's 44 Democrats, 17 Republicans and 2 independents in favor and 4 Democrats, 31 Republicans and 1 independent against. The four Democratic nays were John Fetterman (D-PA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The Republican nays were pretty much exactly who you would expect; you can see a full list here. The independent nay, of course, was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) did not vote because he was attending his son's high school graduation.

The bill now heads to Joe Biden's desk for his signature. Lest we forget, if Donald Trump was still president, that would not be a guarantee, even if the bill was the work of his party, and even if he had previously supported it, and even if failing to sign would do economic harm to the U.S. and its people. We think it's rather unlikely that Biden will be petulant like that, however, and presume he'll sign first thing in the morning today. In fact, we're a little surprised he didn't sign Thursday night, just to put as much space between the bill and the drop-dead date as is possible.

The fact that 90% of the Democratic caucus, versus just 35% of the Republican conference, voted for the bill once again suggests that Joe Biden came out on top in his negotiations with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Yes, technically the U.S. economy was held hostage. But the President managed to give McCarthy an "out" while not deploying extraordinary measures (like $1 trillion coins) that might have riled the markets and the business sector, and also not giving up much of consequence. Biden also made sure this would not happen again during his first term, while making it rather difficult for the GOP to wield the "shutdown" hammer the next time a budget needs to be passed. "Wait. Didn't you resolve this during the debt-ceiling conflict?," voters will ask. Oh, and if they actually can't reach a deal in September or October or November? Then spending will rise, at least slightly, whereas it would remain level under a continuing resolution.

The basically meaningless nature of the spending caps that McCarthy negotiated was on display yesterday, as senators are already trying to find workarounds. The single biggest use of time, during that 3 hours of floor debate in the Senate, was by a Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led group that insisted on a written promise that defense spending could be increased beyond the caps, if and when it is necessary. That written promise was not secured, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) both said they would work on the issue, and were open to discussions during the next budget process. Needless to say, if the Republicans decide to ignore or work around the defense spending caps, then Democrats are going to want the same for the domestic spending caps. And as we pointed out earlier in the week, this is exactly the same thing happened the last time there was a game of debt-ceiling chicken that resulted in an agreement on spending caps.

In the end, the senators' weekends have been saved and so has the U.S. economy. Not too bad for a few hours' work on a Thursday. (Z)

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