The final vote was anticlimatic. The Senate passed the debt-ceiling bill by a lopsided margin of 74 to 26. The Republicans lost 19 votes. Seven Democrats also voted no. The fact that those voting no included Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who will face a conservative onslaught in his re-election bid, suggests that there is plenty of grumbling on both ends of the political spectrum. But the number of GOP defections would naturally be higher once the outcome of the bill was not in doubt. A no vote, in essence, became a free swing — a chance to flash conservative credentials without doing damage to the bill’s prospects.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.) was fast on the draw, shooting out an e-mail that argued:
Instead of a “clean” debt-ceiling increase, Republicans stood firm on the side of the American taxpayer — holding the line against higher taxes and securing serious up-front cuts to wasteful, Washington spending. And for those Democrats, including your opponents, who have sought to demagogue Medicare for their own political advantage, they have now voted to put entitlement spending on the table for reducing the size and scope of government.
In short, Republicans refused to let the President use the threat of a debt-limit deadline to force us to cave on tax increases, more spending, bigger government, or on phony spending cuts that future Congresses could just as easily reverse with a single vote.
That is the reason that Republicans, despite all the grumbling and legitimate concerns about defense spending, are generally pleased. They dodged a bullet by refusing to be lured into an agreement to raise taxes, avoided being blamed for a default, and succeeded with control only of the House.
Pundits on the left whine about the lack of bipartisanship. But this is as close to bipartisanship as you are going to get in Congress (269 votes in the House, 74 votes in the Senate). And that consensus turns out to be rather conservative. So they are miffed, angry even. It turns out “bipartisanship” in the left’s parlance means “capitulation to our view.”
For those paying attention to political discourse in this country, this is no surprise.