McConnell ‘respectfully’ tells Biden it’s time for Democrats to raise debt ceiling
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is urging President Biden to lean on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to get Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own.
“I respectfully submit that it is time for you to engage directly with congressional Democrats on this matter,” McConnell said of the debt ceiling in a letter to Biden.
“Your lieutenants in Congress must understand that you do not want your unified Democratic government to sleepwalk toward an avoidable catastrophe when they have had nearly three months’ notice to do their job,” McConnell wrote.
“Republicans’ position is simple. We have no list of demands. For two and a half months, we have simply warned that since your party wishes to govern alone, it must handle the debt limit alone as well,” McConnell added.
McConnell’s letter to Biden comes shortly before the president gives a speech on the need to raise the debt ceiling. Congress has until Oct. 18, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, to act or risk a historic default.
Schumer, in a separate letter to Democrats on Monday, said Congress needs to act to raise the debt ceiling by the end of the week, but gave no details on the path forward.
Republicans have twice blocked Democrats from raising the debt ceiling: once, to suspend the debt ceiling as part of a short-term government funding bill, and a second time when Schumer tried to bypass the 60-vote filibuster to set up a stand-alone bill to suspend the debt ceiling.
McConnell and Biden have a decades-long relationship, including serving in the Senate together and cutting deals when Biden was vice president.
McConnell — saying that their working relationship had included “strong disagreements” but also “mutual transparency and respectful candor” — told Biden in his letter that he was writing to warn that the United States was “sleepwalking toward significant and avoidable danger” on the debt ceiling fight.
Republicans are trying to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own through reconciliation, a budget process that lets them bypass a filibuster. Republicans believe that will force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling to a specific number, rather than suspending it to a certain date, which would be a tougher political vote.
Democrats have so far refused to put that option on the table.
Jesse Lee, a senior adviser for Communications to the White House’s National Economic Council, responded to McConnell’s letter on Twitter, urging the Senate GOP leader to stop filibustering the debt ceiling.
“All Sen. McConnell has to do to remove his own political threat from the US economy & American families is stop filibustering. Democrats will do their jobs to address the debt limit since he refuses to. Just stop blocking the vote—America’s been through enough. Let’s do it today,” he tweeted.
Democrats could use reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling separate from a sweeping social spending bill, but view the move as procedurally risky and time consuming ahead of the Oct. 18th deadline.
They’ve also been quick to note that Republicans could skip a filibuster of a debt suspension bill, letting Democrats pass it on their own similar to what Democrats during the Bush era did when Republicans had control of the White House and Congress.
But McConnell, in his letter to Biden, argued that Schumer has more procedural options that make Republicans standing down from a filibuster unnecessary.
“There is one difference between then and now: Leader Schumer requested and won new powers to repeatedly reuse the fast-track, party-line process. As a result, Senate Democrats do not need Republican cooperation in any shape or form to do their job. Democrats do not need our consent to set a vote at 51 instead of 60,” McConnell wrote.