Several Republican senators—including many who just won re-election and won’t face voters for six more years—voted for more big government and nearly $150 billion to be added to the national debt on Tuesday night. The vote came on the so-called “Doc Fix” which provides taxpayer cash to Medicare provider doctors.
The votes—which came over two separate measures, one offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and the other by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)—found several Republican senators joining Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and all the Senate Democrats to bust through budget spending caps set by the Budget Control Act that McConnell once touted as an achievement worthy of sticking to.
Lee’s amendment would have required spending cuts to offset the increase of $141 billion to the national debt over the next decade. It only required a simple Senate majority—which Republicans clearly have with 54 members—to succeed, but failed with 58 members voting against it. Several Republicans, including McConnell and many others who just won re-election and won’t face voters again for six years, voted against Lee’s amendment.
The Republicans who joined McConnell and all the Democrats to vote for increasing the national debt with the “doc fix” include: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Dean Heller (R-NV), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), David Perdue (R-GA), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Of the senators on that list, Alexander, Cassidy, Cochran, Collins, Cornyn, Capito, Perdue, Graham, Tillis, and McConnell each won re-election in 2014 and won’t face voters again until 2020 should they decide to run for re-election again. Cochran, interestingly enough, won his primary thanks to Democrats who crossed over to vote for him against Republican Chris McDaniel in a runoff where McDaniel got—by even team Cochran’s admissions—60 percent of the GOP vote. Hatch won’t face voters ever again, as he has announced his current term in the U.S. Senate will be his last.
The second measure, a budget point of order from Sessions, would have blocked the bill from being passed out of the U.S. Senate without reforms requiring it follow budget law that requires its spending increases be offset with cuts. The measure from Sessions required 60 votes from the political establishment to kill it, and McConnell, along with all the Democrats, delivered 71 votes to kill the Sessions measure.
GOP Senators who voted this way to increase the national debt without paying for it with offsetting spending cuts, alongside the all the Democrats, include: Sens. McConnell, Alexander, Cassidy, Cochran, Cornyn, Collins, Capito, Graham, Tillis, Hatch, Heller, Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John McCain (R-AZ), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), John Boozman (R-AR), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).
Of that list, Roberts just won re-election after a hard-fought primary from conservative Milton Wolf and general election battle against a liberal independent—after which he promised he’d fight for conservatism when he was sent back to Washington, since he was clearly rocked by the voters. Rounds just won his first election to the U.S. Senate, and McCain will likely face a primary challenge from either Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), state Sen. Kelli Ward (R-AZ), or both in 2016. Murkowski may face a primary challenge in Alaska this cycle, too, after she lost her primary last time to Republican Joe Miller—but then won the election in the general by launching an improbable but successful write-in effort.
“Sen. Sessions made a motion that would have simply upheld the budget spending limits agreed-to in law,” a Sessions aide told Breitbart News. “It takes 60 votes in the Senate to violate those spending limits and bust the budget. 71 Senators voted to waive those budget rules and bypass the spending limitations from the 2011 debt deal. By striking those limits, the Senate has voted to add $200 billion in new debt over ten years and $500 billion new debt over twenty.”
After these efforts failed, when the bill came up for final passage, only eight Republicans stood against the rest of their conference and all the Democrats by voting against the national debt increase on the floor. Those were: Sens. Sessions, Lee, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Perdue (R-GA).
On the Senate floor on Monday night, Sessions berated his colleagues for even considering doing what they did just one night later.
“This is why the American people don’t trust Congress,” Session said in a lengthy floor speech against the debt-increasing bill. “Some of our members they get their feelings hurt when they go home and some Tea Party person or somebody else accuses them of wasting money and not managing the government well, and they get offended by it. But I’ve got to tell you, the Tea Party is more right than wrong. This is another example of reckless, irresponsible spending.”
Sasse hammered the final deal, too, in a statement released after he voted against it.
“Everyone should be relieved that Washington’s SGR is no longer holding Nebraska doctors hostage—an important goal that all my colleagues share—but I’m disappointed that Congress replaced one budget gimmick with another,” Sasse said. “The math is clear: Medicare is racing toward bankruptcy. Washington cannot avoid tough decisions forever and Nebraskans deserve a serious conversation about reforming our broken entitlement programs and protecting the next generation from a European-style decline.”
Cruz and Rubio opposed the national debt increase, but their fellow 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)—who campaigns frequently against increasing the national debt—voted for the “doc fix” on final passage.
“There is rapidly growing concern among the Republican base that Republican politicians have already abandoned fiscal conservatism with their new congressional majority and bizarre definition of how to ‘lead,’” a GOP congressional aide told Breitbart News on Tuesday night. “Leaders may want to sweep our national-security-threatening debt under the rug through 2016, but patriotic voters have not forgotten it, I guarantee you.”