McConnell blocks up-or-down vote on Obama debt ceiling proposal

(Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)

In a bit of parliamentary squabbling common only to the United States Senate, the chamber will not be voting Thursday on President Obama's proposal to largely shift responsibility for raising the debt ceiling from Congress to the White House.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed an immediate vote on the idea Thursday morning, as a way to highlight potential Democratic unease with the idea.

This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called that bluff, asking to proceed to immediate vote on the measure. But he asked for an up-or-down vote, allowing the Senate to skip to a final vote by which the measure could be approved on a simple 51-vote majority.

McConnell countered the measure should require a 60-vote majority, as most votes do in the Senate.

"What we're talking about here is a perpetual debt ceiling grant, in effect, to the president. Matters of this level of controversy always require 60 votes," McConnell said.

Reid objected to the 60-vote threshold. "What we have here is a case of Republicans here in the Senate once again not taking yes for an answer," Reid said. "Now the Republican leader objects to his own idea. So I guess we have a filibuster of his own bill."

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who was presiding over the Senate at the time, could be heard saying she “got whiplash” as the back and forth between Reid and McConnell ended.

With that, the Senate largely concluded its legislative business for the week.

Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.

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