Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey just doesn't trust House Republicans with the debt ceiling.
It's why Toomey, along with a group of mostly Tea Party senators, are using a procedural vote to hold the budget reconciliation process hostage until they are formally promised that a compromise with Democrats won't include raising the amount the government is permitted by Congress to borrow.
It's the latest in the continuing GOP rift that pits spending hawks and Tea Partiers against those who, in the words of New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie, don't see compromise as a dirty word.
“I disagreed with how [the House] handled the debt ceiling increase last time,” Toomey said. “I’m not convinced they’ll handle it right this time without us all being at the table.”
To reconcile the two vastly different budgets passed by the Senate and the House, the chambers have, historically, appointed a conference of members to find a compromise. Senate rules require a unanimous vote to name appointees, so Toomey and others are refusing to give their votes unless they are promised the debt ceiling is taken off the table.
“Every time we've offered to come to conference, we've said, let’s just take this off the table, and Sen. Reid and the other Democrat senators say ‘oh, no, that has to be on the table’ which suggests that they’re considering a mechanism that would allow them to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes,” Toomey said on Monday’s Morning Joe. Budgets passed during the reconciliation process can pass the Senate with a simple majority—they are filibuster proof—Toomey fears that compromises with Democrats would include raising the debt ceiling, something he believes is absolutely unacceptable.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain slammed his colleagues for their demands last month, saying it “will paralyze the process” over an issue “that happens to be important to a small group.”
Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough challenged Toomey's plan.
“Harry Reid is going to have to deal with Republican conferees in the House,” Scarborough said. “You certainly trust Paul Ryan, don’t you, to do the right thing?”
“Earlier this year, it was Republicans in the House that suspended the debt ceiling concept altogether for a period of time.” Toomey replied. “They said, ‘let’s just the pretend there’s no debt ceiling and allow the government to just keep borrowing. I disagreed with that decision.”