When asked about his 2006 vote against raising the debt ceiling this afternoon, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, speaking to a press gaggle in the Capitol after a meeting of the party caucus, told me to check the answer he gave to Meet the Press when he was asked a similar question. That appearance was in January of this year, and at the time Reid said he couldn’t remember the vote or his reasoning behind it.
Tom Carper of Delaware says he doesn’t regret his vote five years ago against increasing the debt limit, and he will likely vote to raise the debt ceiling when the vote comes up this session. “I expect to vote for it,” Carper said. “I made a lot of progress toward a comprehensive deficit reduction package in which everything, domestic discretionary, defense, entitlements, revenues, tax expenditures are part of the deal.”
“I’m going to vote for [an increase],” said West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller. “If you don’t, it’s just horrible.” Asked why he voted against an increase in 2006, Rockefeller said he doesn’t know, and that he’s “unpredictable.” “I don’t know, that was a long time ago. I was a boy,” he jokingly said. “Our economy, our financial situation was a little bit better at that time.”
That’s what Montana’s Max Baucus believes, also. “The debt should be increased, otherwise we’re responsible,” said Baucus. “The stakes are so high, the debt’s so great, the deficits are so high, the markets are jittery, my gosh. We’ve got to figure out a way to reduce it without the brinksmanship we saw with the CR.” But why did he vote not to raise the debt ceiling back in 2006? “We all have at one time or another,” he explained.
Mark Pryor of Arkansas talked about his own inconsistencies on the debt ceiling vote. “I actually looked back at this,” Pryor said. “I’m almost 50-50 on how I voted on this. And we’re actually going back to look at the circumstances to all those votes. I voted against a few times when President Bush was there, but I voted for it a few times, too.” What would convince him to vote for raising the debt ceiling this time around? “What I need is a commitment that we are going to reduce the debt that is real and meaningful and soon,” he said.
Some Democrats, such as Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, won’t say how they’ll vote. “I have to see what kind of product [the Republicans vote for], because they are so radical, extreme, and don’t seem to understand basic economics,” Mikulski said. But what about her vote in 2006 against raising the debt ceiling? “I’m not going to give you my economic analysis on my position on the debt limit,” Mikulski said. “Right now, I want to limit how many dumb things they’re doing.”
Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey both said they won’t announce how they'll vote beforehand. But what about Conrad’s 2006 vote against raising the debt limit? “I don’t regret my vote,” Conrad said.
Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Chuck Schumer of New York did not answer questions about the debt ceiling.