Five Best Wednesday Columns

Nora Caplan-Bricker on Kirsten Gillibrand's conservative allies, Jonathan Chait on the debt ceiling increase, Greg Sargent on the GOP strategy, Brian Beutler predicts more debt limit fights, and Amanda Hess on America's sexting habits. 

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Nora Caplan-Bricker at The New Republic on Kirsten Gillibrand's conservative allies. "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand supports the right to abortion, the Affordable Care Act, and comprehensive immigration reform. Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul do not. But in the most pitched battled of Gillibrand’s legislative career, her effort to reform the military justice system and combat sexual assault, these right-leaning mavericks have been among the senator from New York’s most outspoken allies," Caplan-Bricker explains. Why? It could be that "neither Cruz nor Paul has ever shied away from playing the provocateur, and Gillibrand’s bill pits them against the Pentagon, one of Washington’s most intransigent bureaucracies," Caplan-Bricker writes. Gillibrand's bill would take sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command. Cruz and Paul could be trying to attract women voters, or put President Obama on the spot, since he hasn't yet expressed support for the bill. Or, they could just really believe in it — when asked why he supports the legislation, Cruz responded, "[Gillibrand] made a strong argument."

Jonathan Chait at New York on the debt ceiling increase. "They said it couldn’t be done, but now the House of Representatives has voted to increase the debt ceiling. It may sound ridiculous to describe a once routine show vote as a stunning triumph of the human spirit, but it’s actually true — they said it couldn’t be done," Chait writes. "We have probably seen the last, final gasp of debt ceiling extortion. In 2011, Republicans used the threat of default to pry unrequited spending cuts from Obama. Then Obama wised up and refused to pay any more ransoms," he explains. "This time, Republicans tried halfheartedly to attach the debt limit to some kind of popular change Democrats wanted, but didn’t even bother threatening not to lift the debt ceiling if they failed." The Atlantic's Matt O'Brien tweets, "Reading this is like watching that lion eat the giraffe." Slate's Matt Yglesias quotes this line: "To be sure, the people who said it couldn’t be done were pretty stupid or dishonest."

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post on the GOP strategy. "So House Republican leaders are bowing to the inevitable and are going to allow a vote on a clean debt limit hike," Sargent writes. Why is this important, besides the obvious? "The crucial point about this outcome, ... is that it will be the direct result of the decision by Dems — in the last two debt limit fights — to refuse to negotiate with Republicans. That was a major course correction on Obama’s part in which he learned in office from failure," Sargent argues. "Of course, working against this is Obamacare’s disastrous rollout, which allowed the GOP to rebound post-shutdown and deepened the certainty among Republicans that they can win this fall only on the law’s problems, which makes it less likely that they’ll risk moving on other fronts. But it seems very plausible that we won’t see any more debt limit crises, which alone would be a victory for sane governing," he writes. American Enterprise Institute fellow Norm Ornstein tweets, "Excellent piece."

Brian Beutler at Salon predicts more debt limit fights. "The past year has revealed two irreducible facts about the GOP and its weaponization of the debt limit. First, that Republican leaders have no intention of allowing the U.S. government to default on its obligations to creditors; and second, that Republicans’ oft-repeated claims that clean debt limit increases can’t pass the House have always been false — bluster meant to intimidate Democrats into conceding something, anything, for a debt limit increase and keeping the cycle of brinkmanship alive," Beutler argues. But still, the debt limit can only be increased for the year. "It's... easy to see this as a hiatus — a temporary accession to political reality paired with a hope that in March of next year the balance of power will have shifted enough to knock Obama back into negotiations. If that’s the case, the spring of 2015 will be a fraught with danger. Particularly if Republicans flip the Senate," Beutler cautions. 

Amanda Hess at Slate on America's sexting habits. "According to a report released today by the Pew Research Center, 9 percent of Americans with cellphones have used them to send a 'sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude' photo or video, while 20 percent of cellphone owners have received a similar type of image," Hess writes. While more people are sexting this year, less are forwarding those messages on. "Could we be entering an era where using technology for titillation doesn’t mean opening ourselves up to exploitation?" Hess asks. "In recent years, the law has stepped in to make the distribution of nonconsensual sexual material an even dumber move than the consensual production of it, which is just how it should be," she argues. Fortune's Sierra Jimenez responds, "Oh, well that's a positive spin..." Quartz's Rachel Feltman tweets, "Apparently only 9 percent of Americans have used their phone to send sexy pics? Seems low to me."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.