debt limit

Republicans Won’t Help Democrats Raise Debt Limit

Mitch McConnell remains the master of obstruction. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

With the political world focused on the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations and their relationship to the pending Democrats-only budget resolution and reconciliation bill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is seizing on a different opportunity to show his master-obstructor chops, as Punchbowl News reports:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is taking a very hard line on the debt ceiling. His message – if Senate Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling, they’re going to have to do it themselves because no Republicans will vote for it in the current “environment” on Capitol Hill …

“I can’t imagine a single Republican in this environment that we’re in now — this free-for-all for taxes and spending — to vote to raise the debt limit,” McConnell added. “I think the answer is they need to put it in the reconciliation bill.”

Now, there’s nothing unusual about partisan positioning on a debt-limit increase, a Washington ritual that voters hate and the financial community insists on in order to keep its world from collapsing because of a default on federal-government obligations. Parties who control neither Congress nor the White House, regardless of their name and ideology, rarely vote for the required increase in the statutory public-debt limit unless there’s something in it for them or it’s linked to must-pass legislation. It’s unclear at this moment when the debt limit will be breached this time around. The two-year suspension of the ceiling that was enacted in 2019 as part of a larger budget deal will run out at the end of July, and though the Treasury will be able to stave off any sort of debt default for a good while with temporary measures, such measures will soon fail. So what McConnell is doing is putting Democrats on notice that it’s their job to figure this out without any Republican votes.

McConnell’s pro tip to Democrats that they ought to roll this matter into their reconciliation bill seems curious at first, given the general Republican line that the whole idea of reconciliation is an outrage that allows the godless socialists to “cram through” their horrible legislation without the bipartisan input Biden promised on the campaign trail (a line that ignores, of course, the avid use of reconciliation by Republicans whenever they have been in a position to use it). But it makes sense insofar as putting the debt limit increase into a Democrats-only bill (a) can get it all out of the way without burning McConnell’s Wall Street friends or forcing his GOP troops to support what they know is necessary and (b) will reinforce the 2021 Republican meta-message.

Note McConnell’s term for the “environment” he allegedly deplores: “a free-for-all for taxes and spending.” That Democrats will include a debt-limit increase in a bill that (yes) increases taxes and spending in accordance with Biden’s agenda creates an aha moment for the GOP in which they can demagogue about all this waste placing a burden on “your children and your children’s children,” who will be saddled with the debt. There will not, of course, be any acknowledgement of the complicity of Republicans in boosting debt during the Trump administration. But then McConnell has never for a moment worried about the appearance of hypocrisy. Just ask Merrick Garland, or the Republican senators who followed to its conclusion the logic of his criticism of Donald Trump’s conduct on January 6 by voting to remove him from office. Don’t expect him to take responsibility for sins he prefers to attribute strictly to the opposition.

Republicans Won’t Help Democrats Raise Debt Limit