WASHINGTON – A debt limit battle on Capitol Hill is escalating after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans this week opposed the vote to raise it.
The Treasury Department has said borrowing authority expires next month and the United States will not be able to pay its bills if the debt ceiling is not extended.
“Let me be clear about this: Republicans are united against raising the debt ceiling,” McConnell, R-Ky., Told reporters after a GOP caucus meeting in the Senate on Tuesday.
He said Republicans were previously in favor of lifting the debt ceiling on a bipartisan basis, but now oppose it because Democrats are suing a multibillion-dollar spending and tax bill that the GOP rejects. He said Democrats should extend the debt limit based on the party line in the budget bill.
“So if they want to do all of this on a partisan basis, they have the ability and the responsibility to make sure the federal government doesn’t default,” he said.
Moments later, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tore his Republican counterpart apart, saying it is “a risky and dangerous business that Senator McConnell is involved in.”
He said Democrats agreed to extend the debt ceiling under former President Donald Trump, even after Republicans pursued a tax cut aimed at increasing the deficit along the party line in 2017.
“We haven’t played games. We haven’t risked the country’s credit. And that’s history,” he said. “Senator McConnell seems to be trying to innovate by saying that we should let the country default.”
Raising the debt ceiling would not authorize new spending; this would allow the United States to borrow money to pay expenses approved by Congress. It would be necessary with or without the $ 3.5 trillion bill being pursued by President Joe Biden.
Democrats control the House and Senate, but an extension of the debt ceiling is obstructed, meaning it would take 60 votes to move forward. That means gaining the support of at least 10 of the 50 Republican senators.
So far there are no takers.
When asked if an increase in the debt ceiling could win 10 Republican votes, Sen. Richard Burr, RN.C., replied, “No.”
Burr retires and no longer has to face the voters. Still, he said he was not interested in lifting the debt ceiling. When asked if he was worried about an economic collapse if the United States defaulted, he turned to the Democrats: “It’s in their hands. They are in the majority.
Senator John Kennedy, R-La., Said he didn’t think McConnell was bluffing.
“Mitch McConnell is as bad as four heart attacks and a stroke. And I don’t think he’s going to budge,” Kennedy said. “Many of my colleagues who voted for the infrastructure bill are being kicked out of their homes by their Republican base. And I think that will make them even more inclined to vote against an increase in the debt ceiling.”
Last month, as Democrats began work on the $ 3.5 trillion tax and spending bill, 46 GOP senators led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Signed a letter saying that they “will not vote to increase the debt ceiling, whether that increase comes through a stand-alone bill, a continuing resolution, or some other vehicle.”
Even Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, who did not sign the letter, said she did not support an increase in the debt limit unless it was “accompanied by certain reforms” for ” control spending “- although she said she didn’t. I don’t want to see blanket cuts known as forcible confinement, which have been used in the past.
The White House expects Republicans to blink. Biden is deferring to congressional leaders on the mechanics of passing it, but he doesn’t think the debt ceiling needs to be negotiated at all, a White House official said. The official said Biden took the same stance as former President Barack Obama in his second term – no debt limit negotiations – and added that Republicans gave in by then.
The White House official added that one of the risks of tying the movement to the reconciliation package is that it is unclear whether the bill will be passed before the October deadline to lift the cap on the debt.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Ruled out increasing the debt limit in the reconciliation bill last week.
A senior Democratic official said that was not possible unless the party rewrote the budget resolution and restarted the entire reconciliation process, with a new Senate vote-a-rama.
Experts have warned that exceeding the debt limit – or even moving closer to the deadline – would be dangerous for the U.S. economy and potentially cause irreparable damage.
Democrats are considering adding a debt ceiling extension to a government funding bill before the September 30 deadline to avoid a shutdown, although they have not announced any decision.
“Every member of my caucus agrees that we cannot allow a government shutdown or a catastrophic default,” Schumer said. “To prevent these two events from happening will require bipartisan cooperation.”