Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida Senator Marco Rubio has found himself on the wrong side of a debate with U.S. Senator John McCain over the GOP desire to conduct regular business in Congress.
Senator McCain has chided Senator Mike Lee of Utah and other tea party senators like Rubio for putting conditions and ideology ahead of getting business done in the Senate. Specifically, McCain is upset the group of senators is blocking the Senate from naming conferees to negotiate the budget with the House.
Lee, Rubio, and Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz want any conference members from the Senate to be forced to not accept any deal on the budget that includes an increase in the debt limit. The reason for this is Republicans would theoretically lose the ability to filibuster the debt limit increase if it’s in the budget.
McCain and others, like Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., note that House Republicans can block any move by Democratic negotiators to engineer a filibuster-free debt limit increase.
“Isn’t it a little bizarre,” McCain said Wednesday. “Basically what we are saying here on this (Republican) side of the aisle is that we don’t trust our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol who are in the majority, Republicans.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has joined McCain in urging Republicans to let the Senate budget bill go to conference with the House. She said in an interview she finds it “baffling that it’s a small minority of our caucus that is holding up going to conference, when our party, correctly for years, has argued that we need to have a budget.” Without a House-Senate conference, she said, “we can’t possibly complete action on it.”
She said GOP conferees “are plenty smart enough to avoid any kind of trap” on the debt ceiling question.
The split between McCain, 76, and next-generation, 40-something potential 2016 candidates like Paul, Cruz and Rubio also illustrates the broader GOP drift toward the right. McCain has spent decades in the Senate, mixing a penchant for confrontation with a capacity for bipartisan relationships and legislation; the new generation is feistier and more wary of compromise.
In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Rubio defended the tradition that allows even one senator to bring the chamber to a halt. He feels he can be effective, Rubio said, “because in this Senate, even a minority within the minority can make a difference.”
The irony is that Rubio and many other GOP members have gone after the Democrats in the Senate for not passing a budget. Now that the budget has passed and is ready for negotiations between the two houses, a few Republicans are now trying to prevent any budget from passing.
The bigger issue for the group of Republicans including Rubio, Paul, Lee, and Cruz is that no matter what happens with their push, the debt limit will be raised. Speaker of the House John Boehner has previously said that one way or another the debt limit will be raised, “I’m not going to risk the full faith and credit of the federal government.”
Most GOP senators, according to the Huffington Post, are siding with McCain in the dispute.
“I think the right thing to do is get ourselves to conference,” Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions told the Huffington Post. “Eventually we need to go forward and reach an agreement, the president needs to be engaged, and a conference provides an opportunity to do that.”
Still, Rubio, Cruz, and Paul have all been talked about as potential GOP candidates in 2016. By grandstanding in the Senate against the budget talks, all are appealing to the more conservative base that would turn out for a primary.
The bigger question comes down to would Rubio, Cruz, and Paul go forward with a full default if they weren’t able to get what they wanted from budget talks or debt ceiling talks. A federal default would cripple not only the U.S. economy but the global economy.
Another question comes from the fact that with the research supporting austerity now proven false, will the mainstream GOP begin to embrace more growth-related changes instead of more cuts?
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