WASHINGTON –Â Bill Nelson was against raising the debt ceiling before he was for it. And he was for it before he was against it.
Now, the senior senator from Florida is set to vote for his Democratic partyâ€™s plan to raise the federally allowed borrowing limit yet again.
Over the past decade, Nelson has voted 10 times on debt-ceiling resolutions, zigzagging as much as Congress itself, often depending on whoâ€™s in the White House and whatâ€™s to blame for the rising debt.
â€œI think the president was right in saying both political parties bear responsibility for running up the federal debt,â€ Nelson said.
On six occasions â€” three times under President Bush and three times during Obamaâ€™s term â€” Nelson voted to raise the debt ceiling. On four occasions â€” all under Bush â€” Nelson voted against raising it as a protest against the Republican presidentâ€™s tax cuts and bank bailout, which Nelson opposed in 2008.
This time, Nelsonâ€™s vote has particular weight. He faces re-election in a political season when President Obamaâ€™s public support is waning. Nelsonâ€™s poll numbers suggest his re-election is far from a sure bet.
Nelsonâ€™s previous nay votes have a political dynamic as well. Theyâ€™re a clear indication that protesting policy by voting â€œnoâ€ on the debt ceiling isnâ€™t a conservative creation of the tea party. After all, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted against it in 2006.
Today, Reid and Obama are the biggest supporters of boosting the debt limit. Many of the Republicans who voted in lockstep to raise the debt under Bush are now resisting. And Nelson has voted against raising the debt ceiling more than some of his Republican colleagues.
Late Thursday, Nelson offered a plan on the Senate floor calling for $4 trillion in long-term spending cuts. Since the plan was released late, it had no time to be vetted or fully examined by lawmakers.
Between 2002 and 2007, Nelson voted to raise the debt ceiling just twice: as part of 2002 and 2007 packages to lift the economy. His â€œnoâ€ votes came in response to requests by the president to increase the debt ceiling to pay for tax cuts, which â€œhe thought favored the wealthy,â€ Nelsonâ€™s office said.
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