At last, after letting not one but two White House press secretaries squirm during questioning about his debt ceiling flip-flop, The One finally speaks up. The crux of his defense: As president, you have to take these things seriously, but as a senator … not so much. And to think, some people during the ’08 campaign accused him of being inexperienced. Then again, at least Obama had that as an excuse for his vote. What’s the excuse for Harry Reid, who’d been in the Senate for 20 years when he voted no on raising the debt ceiling in 2006 and who finally admitted just this morning that he’s “kinda embarrassed” that he did so?
The important part comes at the very end here, where Stephanopoulos alludes to the possibility that Senate Republicans will vote for cloture on the debt ceiling bill, thereby eliminating a filibuster, before voting against the final bill unanimously. That way the debt ceiling will still be raised but the Democrats will, in theory, completely own it by passing it with a simple party-line majority. McConnell’s thinking there, I guess, is that Boehner will have already extracted concessions from the White House and Reid in order to get the bill through the House, so there’s no point in maintaining the leverage of a filibuster in the Senate. But that’ll greatly annoy DeMint, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and other tea-party senators (DeMint told Laura Ingraham this morning that he’s fully prepared to die on this hill) and it’ll make any Republicans who vote for cloture instant targets of the base. Meanwhile, across the aisle, vulnerable Democrats like Ben Nelson will be under tremendous pressure to protect themselves ahead of next year’s elections by voting no, which means even a simple majority might be hard to come by. No wonder Reid might require a 60-vote threshold for passage in order to force the GOP to take some responsibility for the outcome. It’s insane to make an already hopelessly difficult vote even more difficult by raising the bar for passage, and of course it’d be a betrayal of Reid’s own comments today about how important it is not to play political games with the debt ceiling. But it won’t surprise me if he does it. What a month May is going to be.