As Congress considers whether to raise the debt ceiling in the coming weeks, President Obama has had to respond to questions about his own prior votes on the debt limit when he was a United States senator. Obama's press secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday that the president "regrets" his 2006 vote against raising the debt ceiling, saying Obama believes it was a mistake. But what about his fellow Democratic senators?
On that particular vote in March 2006, 44 Democrats voted "nay," including 31 senators who are still in office. They are Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Max Baucus of Montana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Barbara Boxer of California, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Tom Carper of Delaware, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Patty Murray of Washington, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Harry Reid of Nevada, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Chuck Schumer of New York, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Ron Wyden of Oregon. In addition, three members of Obama's cabinet voted the same way: Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
At the time, Ben Nelson had this to say (emphasis mine):
Raising the debt ceiling allows Washington to continue to spend without cutting costs. Instead of forcing Washington to adopt a pay-as-you-go budget, this proposal encourages government to spend now without even a plan to pay for it later. If we raise the debt ceiling, the nation will just go deeper in debt. Washington will never get out of the hole if it doesn’t stop digging.
And Tom Carper, sounding almost like a Tea Party supporter, said this, in defense of his "no" vote:
“We’re in a hole and we need to stop digging,” Carper said. “We’re running up bills that will be left for our children and grandchildren to pay. We simply cannot continue down this path."
Three Republicans and one independent also voted against raising the debt ceiling at the time, including still-sitting senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Ensign of Nevada.
In September 2007, 21 of the 42 "nay" votes on raising the debt ceiling again were Democrats, 17 of them are still in office. Those senators were Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Barbara Boxer of California, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tom Harkin of Iowa, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jim Webb of Virginia. Incidentally, five senators did not vote on this measure, including then-presidential candidates Sam Brownback of Kansas, John McCain of Arizona, Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Clinton of New York, and Barack Obama of Illinois.
Democrats like Chuck Schumer say these days that voting against raising the debt ceiling is "playing with fire," so do these senators regret their votes as well?