Our View: Just another Wednesday in the Senate

Posted: September 27, 2013

Wednesday was just another day of business as usual on Capitol Hill, as a senator finished a “talkathon” that would rank as the fourth longest filibuster in that chamber’s history, the Treasury secretary sent a letter to all members of Congress warning that the government will likely run out of money by Oct. 17 if the debt ceiling is not raised, and members of each party pointed to their “friends” on the other side of the aisle as being responsible for a looming government shutdown and pending default.

After 21 hours and 19 minutes on the Senate floor, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, yielded the floor at noon Wednesday after his marathon attack on ObamaCare. For the nearly full day that Mr. Cruz held his ground, political pundits and members of both parties were consumed with dissecting his motives and actions, labeling him both a hero and a fool many times over.

Mr. Cruz’s grueling oration was designed to fulfill his pledge to do any and every thing in his power to stop ObamaCare. The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution last week funding the entire government with the exception of ObamaCare and sent it to the Senate. Critics said Cruz’s marathon served to block any opportunity for the House bill to succeed in the Senate, but given that Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has declared the bill dead on arrival, Mr. Cruz’s efforts, however one views them, only served to delay the inevitable.

For his part, Mr. Reid wasted no time returning to demagoguery, taking to the Senate floor soon after Cruz yielded and waxed poetic about how Republicans and Democrats used to work together, invoking the names of past Republican senators who he says worked across the aisle. This type of rhetoric from a uniquely partisan majority leader is hard to stomach.

And while all of this drama was unfolding, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to members of Congress urging immediate action to raise the debt ceiling, which currently stands at $16.7 trillion. As The Washington Post reported, “Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned congressional leaders Wednesday that he will exhaust emergency borrowing measures ‘no later than Oct., 17,’ leaving him with less than $30 billion on hand to pay the nation’s bills.”

The Post report notes the grave warning from Mr. Lew: “If we have insufficient cash on hand,” the letter said, “it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history.”

This new “deadline” of Oct. 17 that Mr. Lew has laid at the feet of Congress is about two weeks earlier than previous predictions of when the government would run out of money (but when you are nearly $17 trillion in debt we contend the government went broke a long time ago and simply keeps borrowing more from future generations of taxpayers).

Whether this new benchmark is accurate or some sort of political ploy by the Democratic White House to defer attention from the previous debates on the budget and ObamaCare we cannot say, but the tone of pending Armageddon set by this letter will simply serve as the theme for the coming days.

Late Wednesday, the Senate voted 100-0 (thereby including Mr. Cruz) to move forward and debate the continuing resolution. Thus, the stage is now set for a last-minute showdown running through the weekend, all featured live and free on C-SPAN. If the end result weren’t so potentially costly for American taxpayers, that might be easier for them to swallow.