Judd Gregg's "for it before I was against it" moment

The GOP Senator had no problem raising the government's debt ceiling under Bush. But now the "context" is different

By Andrew Leonard
Published October 1, 2009 7:27PM (UTC)
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Some time in October, the Senate will vote to lift the government's debt ceiling from $11.3 to $13 trillion. If Senators refrain, the U.S. government will default, and that would be very, very bad. Even Jim DeMint probably doesn't want that to happen. But that doesn't mean that there won't be partisan squabbling along the way, as reported by The Hill's Walter Alarkon.

Senate Democrats are expected to delay a vote to increase the debt limit to $13 trillion, a move designed to avoid having the debate during the healthcare reform battle.

Senate Republicans said the delay will allow Democrats to avoid voting for an increase in the debt cap at the same time they're pushing a healthcare overhaul, which is expected to cost approximately $900 billion over the next decade.

At Capital Gains and Games, Stan Collender, budget analyst par excellence, catches this classic "I was for it before I was against it" quote from Republican senator Judd Gregg.


"I have voted for every debt-limit increase because that's what you have to do," Gregg said. "But this limit increase comes in an entirely different context. There's no tomorrow."

As Collender points out, what "different context" really means is a president from a different party is in office. And certainly, the Democrats were no different under Bush. Alarkon reports that in 2006, Democrats "opposed a debt-limit increase requested by President George W. Bush," aiming to use "the occasion to highlight increased spending during a Republican presidency." Alarkon even has a nice quote from then-Senator Obama accusing "Washington" of "shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren."

Funny, that. Of course, there's another way to read the "different context" comment. Like: Worst economic contraction in 70 years, resulting in automatic increases in government safety net spending and declining tax revenue. If ever there was a time when raising the debt ceiling should be a perfunctory, no-questions-asked, item of Congressional bookkeeping, it should be now. Otherwise there really would be "no tomorrow."

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Budget Showdown Debt Ceiling Federal Deficit How The World Works Judd Gregg R-n.h.