On Friday the Democratic leadership of the Senate — Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, Conference Chair Charles Schumer, and Conference Secretary Patty Murray — wrote to President Obama urging him to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling in the event that Republicans either block such an increase or attempt to pass one “as part of unbalanced or unreasonable legislation.”
“We believe that you must make clear that you will never allow our nation’s economy and reputation to be held hostage,” the Democrats wrote. “We believe you must be willing to take any lawful steps to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis — without congressional approval, if necessary.”
Put aside the picture of leading lawmakers, usually so jealous of their constitutional prerogatives, asking the president to ignore Congress. What is striking about the letter is that every one of its signers — Reid, Durbin, Schumer, and Murray — voted against raising the nation’s debt ceiling just seven years ago.
On March 16, 2006, the Senate held a vote on a measure to raise the debt ceiling by $781 billion — the fourth such vote of George W. Bush’s presidency. Republicans controlled the Senate, and Democrats spent much of the debate railing against Bush’s spending. “When it comes to deficits, this president owns all the records,” said Reid. “The three largest deficits in our nation’s history have all occurred under this administration’s watch.”