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GOP Throws In The Towel: The End Of Debt Limit Extortion

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AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

The military cost-of-living adjustments in the Ryan-Murray budget deal could be undone at a later date. A standalone bill to do just that moved forward in the Senate by a vote of 94-0 on Monday. The only question is whether that'll happen in conjunction with -- or independently from -- raising the country's borrowing authority.

It became clear Tuesday morning what many suspected all along: House Republicans don't have nearly enough votes to pass their debt ceiling bill on their own, and the debt limit bill will pass with Democratic support. Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) admitted as much to reporters in the Capitol after a special conference meeting on Monday evening. Many hard-right members don't want to vote for any borrowing limit hike.

"Doing it on the debt ceiling is just playing games with our military retirees," said a House Democratic leadership aide on Monday.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) made his opposition known in dramatic fashion. "How about you talk to my son and tell him about the debt that he's going to pay," he said. Flashing his phone at TPM, he raised his voice: "$17.3 trillion right now. ... He's a Clemson student. I'd be glad for you to explain how he's going to pay that back."

So the debate is all procedural and cosmetic. Both parties' leaders insist that default is not an option. Republicans wanted to package the two in order to save some face and claim they "got" something for raising the debt limit. Democrats wanted to do them separately in order to adhere to their insistence on "clean" debt limit hikes -- no strings attached, no threats to default, no hostage-taking of the economy by the party out of power. It's now clear that Democrats won that debate.

Additional reporting by Daniel Strauss.

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

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