Congress had weeks to pass another budget deal to keep the federal government open. Last night, Kentucky’s junior senator, Republican Rand Paul, prolonged that process another few hours, filibustering the last-minute compromise over his complaints about increasing the federal deficit.
But Paul doesn’t deserve the lion’s share of the responsibility for the eventual shutdown, which lasted for a short time overnight before the final two-year budget resolution passed both House and Senate in the early morning.
It wasn’t Paul, after all, who brought the government to the brink of shutdown by stalling for weeks and waiting until the final hours before coming up with a potential compromise. And, as Paul pointed out, that compromise came in the form of a 652-page document that lawmakers would never have a chance to read.
That hasn’t stopped his GOP colleagues from trying to heap blame on his shoulders, however. On the Senate floor, North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis tried to convince Paul to stop his filibuster. “You haven’t convinced 60 senators or 51 senators that your idea is good enough for them to support,” Tillis said. “Go to work. Build a coalition. Make a difference. You can make a point all you want. But points are forgotten. There’s not a whole lot of history books about the great points of the American Senate.”
“It’s a colossal waste of time. He never gets a result,” John Thune (R., S.D.) said of Paul’s effort.
“I wonder about the endgame of people who keep us here till 1:00 and achieve nothing,” said Richard Shelby (R., Ala.).
Texas senator John Cornyn, the GOP’s second highest ranking senator, called Paul’s filibuster, “grossly irresponsible,” adding, “Why reward bad behavior?”
“He wanted attention and he got attention. That’s it,” said James Inhofe (R., Okla.) said of Paul.
These Republican senators are trying, of course, to distract from the substance of Paul’s complaints, which were not without merit. Regardless of the wisdom of his methods, the Kentucky senator was exactly right that, with this deal, the majority of the GOP has proved itself willing to forfeit the party’s supposed commitment to fiscal responsibility in order to obtain increased military spending.
Aside from deriding the GOP’s disregard for ballooning the federal debt, Paul said on the floor that the goal of his filibuster was to get a vote on an amendment to preserve the budget caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011 rather than expand them under the new legislation.
The GOP leadership denied him that vote, but — in exchange for a healthy serving of blame from both his colleagues and commentators – the junior senator got a chance to expose his party’s hypocrisy. Under President Obama, GOP leaders touted fiscal restraint and deficit reduction, promising to right the fiscal ship when they regained control of the government. Now that they have the control they wanted, they appear to have tossed those goals overboard.
Paul deserves to be praised for his willingness to expose them for it.