Senate Republican leaders Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas on Wednesday voted to advance legislation that would increase the nation's borrowing capacity — but not before they spent 40 minutes of the open vote trying to get others to do it for them, likely out of fear of the conservative blowback that came almost immediately.
Earlier this week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanded the 60-vote procedural move, which put McConnell and Cornyn in the uncomfortable position of having to find five Republicans to join Democrats in supporting the debt ceiling measure. By doing so, Cruz gave perfect fodder to tea party groups and candidates, like the Senate Conservatives Fund and McConnell opponent Matt Bevin, against in-cycle Republicans who would need to vote for the bill as opposed to just letting Democrats do it themselves with a simple majority.
Within minutes, the two leaders were getting hit on social media by their opponents.
Once again #McConnell caves to the left, and votes to break conservative fillibuster on #DebtCeiling. #KYSen — Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) February 12, 2014
Mitch McConnell just voted with the Democrats to advance yet another debt limit increase. Kentucky deserves better. #KYsen — Senate Conservatives (@SCF) February 12, 2014
John Cornyn just voted to kill Ted Cruz's filibuster and raise the debt limit. #tcot #teaparty #gop #republican #txsen #txlege #txgop — Rep. Steve Stockman (@StockmanSenate) February 12, 2014
John Cornyn is treating Ted Cruz's back like his own personal cutlery holder. — Rep. Steve Stockman (@StockmanSenate) February 12, 2014Bevin's tweets throughout the day can be read here , here , here and here . He faces off with McConnell on May 20.
Before McConnell and Cornyn recorded their "ayes," only four Republicans broke ranks, meaning leaders were one vote short.
The cloture motion succeeded with 67 "yes" votes, and four additional Republicans backed McConnell and Cornyn's position after they recorded their decisive support, emerging en bloc from the cloakroom and voting to advance the bill.
On Tuesday, most House Republican leaders had swallowed the bitter pill of their own creating — raising the debt ceiling , which before the tea party wave of 2010 was a routine congressional procedure.