I ACTUALLY VOTED FOR PHASE-OUT BEFORE….Sam Rosenfeld reports that 50 Senate Republicans just voted in favor of “steep benefit cuts” and/or a “massive increase in debt.” Nicely done, all of you! I wonder, though, why Craig Thomas and especially Lincoln Chaffee (who’s up for reelection next year; maybe he’s tired of politics) both voted for cuts/debt, which is odd since both are also on record as opposing Social Security phase-out. Hm?

At any rate, seems like there’s no turning back or dropping the subject for Republicans now?why abandon phase-out when you’ve already endorsed its most unpopular aspects? On the other hand, it’s too premature to say that this debate is now officially dead. Yes, it would seem awfully odd for Collins, DeWine, Graham, Snowe, or Specter to vote for some version of phase-out after voting against steep benefit cuts and massive increases in debt, but there’s still a lot of leeway there. Lindsey Graham’s plan, for instance, would some entail borrowing and benefit cuts, though you could haggle over whether the words “steep” and “massive” apply. Though that’s certainly a distinction I’d love to see Graham squirm over in public!

So what’s next for the GOP? Painting the Democrats as “obstructionists”? Using the “nuclear option” as a diversionary tactic? Or is there some deep, dark, Karl Rove master plot that no one seems to be expecting?

UPDATE: In comments, Matthew Marler brings up a very good point. All of the Senate Republicans except for Snowe and Voinovich, along with a few Democrats, also voted for another “sense of the Senate” resolution declaring that “failing to address the financial condition of Social Security will result in massive debt, deep benefit cuts and tax increases.” (Really? All three of those?) Perhaps they think that gives them an out, though it doesn’t, really (why do they want to make a bad problem even worse? Hmmm?).

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