I had hoped that Mitch McConnell would at least get something for allowing the vote to be moved up by several hours.
Kudos, Mitch McConnell.
Byron York has the scoop. Apparently McConnell did have a plan to force difficult votes for the liberals in an election year.
There's no doubt that McConnell, with just 40 Republican votes, holds the weak hand in negotiating with Reid. But according to the source, in exchange for agreeing to hold the vote on Christmas Eve morning instead of evening, McConnell got Reid to agree to hold a high-profile debt-limit vote next month -- just before the president's State of the Union address -- instead of burying the issue later, as Democrats had wanted. In addition, McConnell got Reid to agree to showcase a number of deficit-related Republican amendments, forcing Democrats to vote on issues they had hoped to avoid.
The Senate has still not voted on a bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling. It has to do so by tomorrow, before lawmakers leave for the year. Democrats have taken hits for wanting to raise the limit by about $1.8 trillion; raising it by that amount would allow them to avoid another vote on raising the debt ceiling before next year's elections. They also hoped to hide the measure inside a conference report so that lawmakers would vote on a larger package of measures and would not have to cast a vote specifically in favor of such a huge increase. When they couldn't reach agreement on that, they came up with a plan for a two-month debt-ceiling agreement, which would at least mean they would not have to come up with a longer-term agreement until February.
That is important because Democrats want to hold the debt-ceiling vote after the president's State of the Union address, in which Obama is expected to emphasize fiscal responsibility and deficit control. Given Democratic spending in the last year, Obama will have a difficult time making the argument with a straight face, and Senate Democrats had hoped that pushing the debt ceiling vote until well beyond the speech would make the president's task a little easier. Thus the plan to pass a two-month debt ceiling bill before leaving for Christmas.