McConnell: GOP will block debt limit hike if Democrats pursue spending plans

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday said Senate Republicans will not vote for legislation to raise the debt limit if President Biden and Democrats stick to their plan to push through a $3.5 trillion spending and tax reform proposal this fall.

Democrats are aiming to use the budget reconciliation process to advance the sweeping spending bill without GOP votes. McConnell said if Democrats “ram” the bill through the Senate, Republicans won’t provide any votes to raise the debt limit.

“Let me make something perfectly clear: If they don’t need or want our input, they won’t get our help. They won’t get our help with the debt limit increase … that these reckless plans will require,” he said.

The GOP leader said Democrats must get significant Republican input on the shape and scope of the budget reconciliation bill or they won’t get any GOP votes for raising the debt limit, which technically expired at the end of July.

That means Biden and Democratic leaders would need to dramatically scale down their plan to raise taxes and invest in “human infrastructure,” if they are to expect GOP support for extending the federal government’s borrowing authority.

More likely, however, Democrats will stick to their original plan to pass a massive $3.5 trillion package to invest in a bevy of social programs, combat climate change and raise corporate taxes and put pressure on Republicans to support a debt limit increase anyway.

But McConnell on Thursday insisted that Democrats will be voting alone to raise the debt limit.

“I could not be more clear. They have the ability — they control the White House, they control the House, they control the Senate. They can raise the debt ceiling and if it’s raised, they will do it,” he said.  

He likened the expectation that Republicans will support a debt ceiling increase to someone going on an ordering spree at a restaurant and then trying to later split the check with tablemates who ate and drank far less.

“Democrats want a new debt limit increase for the new borrowing and the new spending that they willfully piled up since they took power — about $2 trillion back in March, trillions sometime soon,” McConnell said.

“They want to unleash another reckless taxing and spending spree with zero Republican input [but] oh, when the bill comes, they say it’s time to split the check,” he added.

Senate Republicans have discussed attaching spending curbs modeled on the 2011 Budget Control Act, which imposed across-the-board caps on discretionary spending.

They have also talked about the Trust Act, sponsored by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), to establish special committees to draft legislation addressing the long-term solvency of Social Security and Medicare. 

McConnell warned last month that Senate Republicans wouldn’t vote for any proposal to raise the debt limit without attached spending reforms, prompting outrage from Democrats. 

“I can’t imagine there will be a single Republican voting to raise the debt ceiling after what we’ve been experiencing,” McConnell said last month. 

Democrats attacked the GOP leader for putting the nation’s creditworthiness at risk.

“The leader’s statements on debt ceiling are shameless, cynical and totally political,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) fumed. “This debt is Trump debt. It’s COVID debt.”

Schumer pointed out that Democrats voted “three times during the Trump administration” to raise the debt limit.

Republicans have called on Democrats to raise the debt ceiling through a budget reconciliation package they plan to pass later this year with only Democratic votes. That legislation will include elements of Biden’s “human infrastructure” agenda that don’t have Republican support.

But Democrats familiar with negotiations on the budget resolution, which Schumer plans to bring to the floor in a few days, said there has been hardly any discussion about including language to raise the debt ceiling.

They say Schumer’s preference is to move debt limit legislation under regular order, which would need 60 votes — and the support of at least 10 Republicans — to pass the Senate.

The two-year suspension of the debt ceiling expired on July 30 and the Treasury Department has used so-called extraordinary measures to allow the federal government to keep paying its obligations.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned last month that the extraordinary measures would be expired by the end of September. She called on Congress to extend the nation’s borrowing authority under regular order. 

“On Oct. 1 alone, cash and extraordinary measures are expected to decrease by about $150 billion due to large mandatory payments, including a Department of Defense-related retirement and health care investment,” Yellen wrote in a letter to congressional leaders. 

Tags Biden infrastructure bill budget reconciliation Charles Schumer Janet Yellen Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney
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