Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn fell on their swords for Republicans Wednesday, casting the votes necessary to advance legislation to raise the debt limit without any conditions, votes that could put them in precarious positions politically in their re-election campaigns.
The House voted Tuesday to raise the debt ceiling without any strings attached, over the objections of a majority of Republicans. Just 28 Republicans voted for the bill, and it got a poor reception with conservative groups, a number of whom called for Speaker of the House John Boehner to resign.
Cornyn’s fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had a similarly negative reaction to passing the bill without any conditions, and he filibustered it, requiring 60 votes to advance it to a final vote. Senate leaders kept the vote open for an hour, trying to secure enough Republican votes to advance it to a final vote.
When those votes could not be found, McConnell and Cornyn stepped in to cast the necessary votes. Ultimately, 12 Republicans voted in favor of advancing the bill, but according to The Hill, a number of them appeared to switch their votes at the end. The final vote to advance the bill was 67-31.
Sens. John Barrasso, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Mike Johanns, Orrin Hatch, Mark Kirk, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and John Thune joined Cornyn and McConnell in taking the vote. Collins is the only senator among that group other than Cornyn and McConnell who faces re-election this year, and her seat is considered to be pretty safe.
The political ramifications could be particularly problematic for McConnell, who faces a primary challenger and a well-funded Democratic challenger in the general election. Cornyn’s primary challenge, from Rep. Steve Stockman, appears to be less problematic for the senator.
Matt Bevin, McConnell’s primary challenger, attacked McConnell on Twitter immediately after the vote:
“Once again #McConnell caves to the left, and votes to break conservative fillibuster on #DebtCeiling,” he wrote.
The bill subsequently passed the Senate in a party line vote, 55-43.