U.S. Senate Republicans helped block a measure Saturday that would have allowed the nation to increase its borrowing limit, saying the debt-ceiling lift needs to be accompanied by spending reforms.
Though the Senate is controlled by Democrats, there aren't enough of them to muster the 60 votes needed to proceed under the chamber's rules and no Republicans joined them in the 53-45 vote to lift the debt ceiling.
"The American dream will be increasingly out of reach for millions of Americans as long as Washington keeps spending more money than it has," Florida's Republican senator, Marco Rubio said.
"I opposed Senate Democrats' latest attempt to raise the debt limit by $1.1 trillion because it fails to address our real debt crisis, reform spending, encourage economic growth, and do the necessary things to protect the American dream," Rubio said. "The American dream is still worth fighting for, and it's time Washington stops getting in the way of people trying to achieve it."
If the borrowing limit isn't increased Oct. 17, they say, the nation could eventually default on its debt or the economy would be hamstrung because the government would have to make deep cuts to existing programs to pay its bills -- if that's even possible.
And there's an irony, Democrats say: Republicans have helped shutdown part of the federal government over Obamacare in part, they say, because it's bad for the economy and causes uncertainty. The shutdown and debt-ceiling woes threaten to cause greater financial unrest.
“What a sad day for America,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said. “They’re voting to not allow us to even debate whether the debt ceiling should be raised. Are they afraid of that? Do they just want this to go away?"
Republicans don't just want big reforms, they also want small changes to Obamacare -- for instance, including a provision that would require income-verification for recipients before they receive tax subsidies to purchase insurance on the individual market.
Democrats say that's a "poison pill" because the current system doesn't allow for the verification. Also, the federal Obamacare sign-in website has been a technical and public-relations disaster because it has worked for so few people due to apparent computer-code error and inadequate capacity to handle the crush of people signing in since Oct. 1.
But the GOP-precipitated shutdown has drowned out the Obamacare website troubles in media coverage and at least one survey indicates the Affordable Care Act has become more popular in the eyes of Americans who increasingly view the Republican Party in an unfavorable light.
Most polls indicate the GOP is blamed, to a much greater degree than Democrats or President Obama, for the current woes in Washington.
Rubio was an architect of the defund Obamacare push, a point he made publicly in July. He also said then that he wouldn't vote for a debt-ceiling increase without a plan to balance the budget.
Reid, however, bears a share of procedural blame for the predicament in the Senate, along with a few other Democrats. They refused to change Senate filibuster rules, which allow the minority party to more easily block votes like the debt-ceiling measure.
Reid has signaled he might change the rules by invoking the so-called "nuclear option" to do away with the 60-vote limitation in some instances.
But even if the Senate approved the bill, the Republican-controlled House has indicated that the fate of a so-called "clean" debt-ceiling vote is uncertain.