Schumer points to debt incurred under Trump to highlight need for bipartisan action

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is stepping up pressure on his Republican colleagues to help raise the debt ceiling, while pointing to debt incurred under the prior administration to underline the need for bipartisan action.

In remarks from the Senate floor on Monday, Schumer pointed to a recent memo released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that showed the Trump administration had racked up more than $5 trillion in new debt since the debt limit was last suspended in August 2019 through January.

“So, all of the new $5 trillion in debt, bottom line, was caused under the Trump administration,” he said, as Democrats seek to increase pressure on Republicans to agree to raise the spending limit.

The push comes as Republicans and Democrats have been locked in an increasingly high-stakes game of chicken over the nation’s borrowing limit.

Republicans have vowed not to vote with Democrats to raise the country’s borrowing limit in opposition to their trillion-dollar spending package.

Democrats aim to advance the package, which includes key parts of President Biden’s economic agenda such as spending boosts in education, climate and public housing, using a process called reconciliation, which will allow them to bypass the measure in the upper chamber without Republican buy-in. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other Republicans have balked at proposed $3.5 trillion price tag associated with the package, panning the partisan plan as “reckless” and potentially damaging to the nation’s economy.

Schumer on Monday doubled down on Democrats’ calls for Republicans to address the debt ceiling with bipartisan action, pointing to multiple instances in the past that both major parties worked together to take action on the borrowing limit. 

“Even when President Trump was in office, Democrats worked three times with Republicans to suspend the debt ceiling, because it was the right and obvious thing to do,” he said.

However, McConnell has dismissed calls for Republicans to help address the limit, calling on Democrats to do it on their own. 

“Of course, it’s our Senate Democratic colleagues who have no interest in what is historically normal. Their borrowing and spending are historically abnormal,” McConnell said last month. 

“Democrats keep boasting about how wild and revolutionary their partisan vision is! So our friends across the aisle should not expect traditional bipartisan borrowing to finance their nontraditional reckless taxing and spending spree. That’s not how this works,” he said.

His office on Monday also pushed back on Schumer’s remarks pointing to the spending under Trump to back his calls for bipartisan action on the debt limit, saying the Democratic leader’s remarks were “misleading,” given that more than half of the spending figure “was related to the pandemic and passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis.”

The GOP’s strategy to leverage votes on the debt ceiling in exchange for spending reforms comes years after the party made similar demands during another standoff over the national borrowing limit in 2011.

Congress didn’t reach a solution to the issue until the eleventh hour, and the nation later saw its creditworthiness downgraded by S&P for the first time, roiling financial markets.

“Failure to do so now, Leader McConnell, is an equal disaster. Doesn’t matter who is president. We have still incurred the bills,” Schumer said Monday.

“The United States has never—ever—defaulted on paying its debts. I can’t imagine Republicans would want to be responsible for the first-ever default,” he added.

–Updated on Sept. 14 at 10:26 a.m.

Tags Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Joe Biden Mitch McConnell

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