Take Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican from North Dakota. Approached by reporters, Mr. Cramer launched into prolonged praise for the increase in the short-term debt limit proposed by Mr. McConnell. He called it elegant, praising the Senate leader’s trick in preserving filibustering and depriving Democrats of a powerful political argument against his party. It also avoided a potentially disastrous default. But Mr Cramer would still not vote to allow it to move forward.

“I don’t think I will,” he said.

In the end, 11 Republicans, including incumbents with nothing to lose and members of the leadership, bit the bullet and pushed the bill forward. It was ultimately passed with only Democratic votes and has yet to be approved by the House before it reaches President Biden’s office. Action is expected next week, just days before an expected default.

Sen. Roy Blunt, the retired Missouri veteran Republican who was one of Eleven, spoke for many when he muttered in the hallway, “I can’t explain anything about this place.”

The dysfunction was clearly contagious. Even the subway that transports lawmakers, staff, media and visitors between the Capitol and Senate offices broke down on Thursday, trapping a few unlucky passengers for a brief period. She too had reached her limit.

Tackling the underlying debt is whether Democrats will raise the debt ceiling through due process or through a more complicated budget process, a technical distinction so fine that it is surely indistinguishable for virtually anyone. Americans who are not intimately familiar with the Budget Control Act.

“I don’t think they get it a little bit,” Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn told members of the public. “It’s confusing for the people who work here.”

“The debt ceiling debate is absurd with a capital A,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who heads the finance committee.


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