Yesterday the Senate passed a resolution that raised the debt ceiling for the Federal government. A distasteful process to be sure, but without it the government defaults on its outstanding debt, which could be an economic catastrophe in several levels.
The following exchange took place, as chronicled by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:
Before the debt-ceiling vote, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, warned that a default by the Treasury would have a "cataclysmic result in the financial markets."
Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the top Republican on budget matters, rose in opposition. "It is not responsible to raise the debt ceiling in this manner if you're not going to put in place any responsible activity to bring under control the rising debt."
Not going to put in place any responsible activity to bring under control the rising debt? The Senate voted Tuesday on just such an activity, a debt commission whose recommendations would get an up-or-down vote in Congress. Gregg joined Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) in introducing the bill, and Obama endorsed it. But a majority of Gregg's GOP caucus opposed the panel.
Baucus, the Democratic floor leader, realized he was wasting his breath. "I think we all know where we are," he said before one of Thursday's votes, declining the time he had been given to speak.
Baucus’s big mistake here was in ceding his remaining time. He should have called bullshit on Gregg, who is as big a phony as can be found in the Senate. This is why Democrats consistently lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the public. Republicans repeatedly obfuscate, lie, and repudiate what were allegedly the sincere and heartfelt convictions of only a few years ago, and the Dems never call them on it.
Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should have staffers lined up, ready to hand rebuttals to any Democrat who follows a Republican who makes a false or hypocritical speech on the floor. Define “death panels” right after the lie is put out. Keep both images, the true and the false, in the public’s mind. Ask hard questions. “I ask my distinguished colleague why he stands so squarely against accumulating debt when he voted six times for budgets that increased the deficit during the Bush Administration?”
But they won’t. It’s hard to decide whether they’re more cowardly than they are stupid sometimes.