Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., scolded Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, for acting like a “dictator” by demanding that Senate Democrats promise not to raise the debt limit during conference meetings with House Republicans.
“We don’t have kings anymore,” Landrieu said in response to Lee on the Senate floor this afternoon. “We don’t have dictators anymore. We don’t have people with special powers . . . not anyone in this chamber is entitled to write the budget exactly the way they want it.”
Lee took to the floor to oppose moving to a budget conference between House and Senate lawmakers that could be used to raise the debt ceiling.“We want a very simple assurance that any conference report that results from this conference will not be used to raise the debt limit,” Lee said. “We want some assurances that this important decision will be made under the regular order of the Senate — that the normal rules of the Senate will apply to this, that this won’t be negotiated behind closed doors in a backroom deal.” “Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that one senator in one state has the right to write the rules,” Landrieu replied. “We had to listen to them ranting and raving for years [about how we don't have a budget] . . . They’ve decided that because they represent half of [three] states that they want their way or the highway. Now, the whole Congress cant go to conference on the budget.” Update 5/22/13: Landrieu, one of the red-state Democrats running for re-election in 2014, drew a response from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which recalled that she attacked described the high federal debt as “bad for business” during the George W. Bush years, when the debt was $9.6 trillion lower than it is today. “Throughout her 16 years in Washington, Landrieu has gone from ‘unsettled’ over the debt to demanding that she be able to max out the government credit card, and reducing anyone who disagrees to that of a ‘dictator,’” NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen said in a statement. “The Landrieu family has a long history in Louisiana, but as the national debt nears $17 trillion, it’s clear just how ingrained in the Washington culture Mary Landrieu has become.” [End of update] Lee, in a joint statement with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, previewed today’s floor remarks last week. “After refusing to pass a budget for four years, Democrats have proven themselves willing to abuse the budget process, including sneaking in provisions to add new taxes or raise the debt ceiling,” the Tea Party trio said. “The American people deserve assurances from Senator Reid that he will not try to hijack this bill and add tax hikes and more debt at the eleventh hour. Sneaking in a debt limit increase would be particularly egregious because it is not a part of either the House- or Senate-passed budgets.” Landrieu said that by “saying ‘no, we can’t go to conference to work out the differences,’” those Republican lawmakers had achieved “the height of hypocrisy.” She added that “it is completely unexplainable for their position and unacceptable.” Lee’s team countered that Landrieu and Senate Democrats are trying to game the budget conference because they never took up the House Republican budget nor submitted their budget to the House for Republicans to amend, as is customary.
“Senator Lee wants a budget,” communications director Brian Phillips told The Washington Examiner. “He’s concerned that Senate Democrats will manipulate the budget process to include a debt limit increase — that was never debated or considered in the House or the Senate — with a simple 51-vote threshold. If anything, Senators Lee, Paul, and Cruz are protecting the integrity of the process by either forcing them to take up the House budget or, at the very least, come to the floor and assure the American people that they are not going to misuse the process to pass a debt limit increase.”