Democrats Troll Mitch McConnell on the Debt Limit

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 8 2013 11:49 AM

Democrats Troll Mitch McConnell on the Debt Limit

Today, in our ongoing game of "Why nobody can ever compromise," I see via Politico that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is hitting 11 Democrats (including safe-as-milk Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin) for their record of actually voting to raise the debt limit. A typical attack, like this one against Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, mentions that the senator voted for nine debt limit hikes.

Our national debt has more than tripled during Mary Landrieu’s time in Washington. Her only answer has been to spend even more taxpayer money. According to a new CBS poll, fully three-quarters of Americans are opposed to raising the debt limit without conditions.

And so on. Democrats respond by pointing out that Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is being primaried from the right, has voted for 15 debt limit hikes, most of them "clean." This is true—McConnell has actually voted many, many, many times to just raise the damn ceiling. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign committee has tallied these claims, in press release-ese identical to the GOP's.

SINCE MCCONNELL CAME TO WASHINGTON, THE NATION’S DEBT HAS INCREASED BY OVER $15 TRILLION
December 1984: National Debt Estimated At $1.645 Trillion. “After 1984's borrowing and now two months of fiscal 1985 the national debt is $1.645 trillion.” [UPI, 12/27/84]
Today: National Debt Is $16.7 Trillion. [TreasuryDirect.gov, accessed 10/8/13]
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And so on. You get it: Both sides can play this game with anyone who's served in Washington for a while. Mitt Romney beat up Rick Santorum for having the audacity to ever raise the debt limit—as if Romney, had he been elected when he ran for Senate in 1994, wouldn't have done so. The DSCC's sort of trolling, sort of trying to put the genie back in the bottle, and I'm more for the second tactic because we don't really want to only elect members of Congress who are afraid to ever raise debt limits.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.