Republican leaders were more than happy to let Democrats own the debt ceiling raise. Then Ted Cruz made matters more complicated.
On Tuesday, the Republican House chose to raise the debt ceiling, thereby avoiding another round of political brinksmanship. (Via CNN)
All that does is pay off spending already agreed upon. In the past, Republican opposition to raising the ceiling has risked default on U.S. debts and helped result in a lowered credit rating in 2011. (Via The Washington Post, Politico)
Now, because public opinion polls say the GOP would catch flack should the debt limit not be raised, many Republicans are eager to avoid the bad PR. (Via The Hill)
HALEY BARBOUR: "If it comes down to closing down the government and hurting the credit rating of the United States, we've already been to that movie. It has a bad outcome." (Via Bloomberg)
That includes House Speaker John Boehner, who let Democrats cast most of the votes needed for House approval of the limit lift, then added in the minimum number of votes needed from his Republicans. (Via Business Insider)
This would ensure the GOP isn't blamed for default and still let Republicans pin Democrats with the debt ceiling raise, like so:
BOEHNER: "It's the President driving up the debt ... And so, let his party give him the debt ceiling increase that he wants." (Via C-SPAN)
That is, if the Senate also successfully votes to raise the debt ceiling. Normally, the Democrat-led upper chamber would be more friendly ground for this kind of action. But there's what you might call a fly in the ointment.
See, like Boehner in the House, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has voiced desire to avoid all the brinksmanship. (Via The White House / Pete Souza)
Even better, because Democrats hold 53 seats in the Senate, and they only need 51 to approve the debt ceiling raise, all of McConnell's Republicans could vote no and still wouldn't risk default. (Via The White House / Pete Souza)
So, Senate Republicans would get the best of both worlds: avoid default and the resulting public opinion hit and be able to give Democrats all responsibility for the debt ceiling raise. And it all works as long as no one filibusters.
And Ted Cruz is filibustering, which means the Senate will need 60 votes, including at least five Republicans. In National Journal's words, Cruz would be forcing some in the GOP to vote yes on the debt limit raise.
Like most Republicans, he wants to withhold a debt ceiling raise in exchange for spending cuts.
CRUZ: "We should not raise the debt ceiling without fundamental structural reforms." (Via Fox Business)
But unlike most Republicans, Cruz isn't just content with voting no. A Senate vote will likely take place Wednesday. If the upper chamber doesn't pass a debt limit raise then, it probably won't have another chance until Feb. 25. That's two days before the Treasury says the U.S. is likely to default.