Sen. Rand Paul may have vowed to filibuster the debt ceiling deal prior to the GOP debate on Wednesday in Boulder, Colorado, but that’s become a moot point. It sailed through the Senate, as Sen. Mitch McConnell filed a cloture motion earlier this morning around 1 a.m. It passed 63-35. The final passage of the debt deal came around 3 a.m. by a 64-35 vote (via USA Today):
The Senate passed a two-year budget deal early Friday that would prevent the U.S. government from defaulting on its debts next week and help avert a potential government shutdown in December.
Senators voted 64-35 to approve the legislation shortly after 3 a.m.
The House approved the budget agreement Wednesday despite opposition from a majority of Republicans. President Obama was poised to sign it into law.
The legislation would raise the debt limit through March 2017, allowing the government to continue to borrow money to pay its bills. The Treasury Department has warned that the government will default on its debts unless the limit is raised by Tuesday.
The deal also lifts budget caps to boost spending for military and domestic programs by a total of $80 billion over two years. That reduces the possibility of a government shutdown in December, when current funding for federal agencies expires. Additionally, it would protect senior citizens from an expected spike in Medicare premiums next year.
The increased spending — divided equally between military and domestic programs — would be offset in part by changes in the Social Security system designed to achieve $168 billion in long-term savings.
Yet, as Guy noted, this was pretty much a legislative surrender that moves money from “one pot into another.” Hence, why conservatives are fuming over this agreement. Negotiations over this deal between Congress and the White House began back in September. By Wednesday night, as the GOP candidates were taking their places at the debate site, it became clear that Sen. Paul would not be able to filibuster the deal. On Thursday afternoon, Paul made something of a last ditch effort to stop this deal, though as Gabrielle Levy of U.S. News and World Report wrote, if Paul truly wanted to stop this bill–he should have been in Washington, not in Boulder:
Paul spoke for about 20 minutes Thursday afternoon before ceding the floor to his colleagues and making a plea for support. Aides to McConnell said the majority leader will gavel in the new legislative day after midnight in order to hold the cloture vote, but Paul has asked his colleagues to donate their time – each senator is allowed one hour but can speak longer if others agree to let him have their hours – to would allow him to delay the vote on final passage further into the morning.
“This filibuster will go on to about 1 in the morning and then we will find out who the true conservatives in this town are,” Paul said shortly after coming onto the Senate floor. “If you are a conservative, you will say, 'There is no way I’m going to vote to give an unlimited power to the president to borrow money.”
But even if other senators gave Paul their time, and if he was physically able to hold the floor – the longest filibuster on record is 24 hours – he still would not be able to delay passage any longer than 30 hours, the maximum post-cloture time allowed. At that point, McConnell would be able to demand the floor and call the final vote to pass the budget bill.
Modern filibusters instead tend to take the form of 41 senators voting against cloture, preventing it from moving forward unless at least one changes his or her mind. Paul could have held a standing filibuster – the kind where he would be required to speak as long as he physically could – if he had been on the floor to prevent McConnell from filing cloture in the first place.
She added that this whole filibuster threat was possibly made to boost his lackluster fundraising.
UPDATE: Paul's campaign contacted Townhall to clear up a few points, notably that the filibuster could have continued if 41 senators stood with Paul during the cloture vote. In the end, "35 Senators supported Senator Paul's position that granting the President unlimited spending powers was a mistake," his campaign said.
Sen. Cruz called this bill a betrayal to American families.