Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer used strikingly personal language on the Senate floor on Monday to upbraid Mitch McConnell for uniting the Republican caucus against raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
“He always comes up with some sophistry as to why it’s different, but everyone knows it’s not different,” Schumer said, referring to the Kentucky Republican. “Shame, shame on the leader, the Republican leader.”
Democrats are seeking to suspend the debt limit through December 2022 to account for the money the government spent during the pandemic, including the $900 billion Covid-19 stimulus package that was passed under President Donald Trump.
“Anyone who says this is Democratic debt is not talking fact,” Schumer argued, noting considerable GOP support for that package.
But speaking moments after Schumer, McConnell reiterated his opposition to a debt ceiling increase, arguing that Republicans will vote “no” due to Democrats’ plan to push through an estimated $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
“This isn’t about the past, it’s about the future. And Democrats want to build a partisan future without our input,” McConnell said. “So Democrats will not get bipartisan facilitators for their purely partisan spending binge.”
Right now, Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to join them to pass a continuing resolution with a debt limit increase to keep the government running and avoid an unprecedented default.
In the past, members of both parties have come together -- often begrudgingly -- to provide the votes necessary to avoid default. Democrats supported suspending the debt ceiling three times during the Trump presidency as the nation added nearly $8 trillion to the national debt.
But such a bipartisan outcome looks murkier now, due to McConnell’s repeated defiance.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin has informed Congress that the debt ceiling will need to be raised at some point in October. And for the moment, McConnell appears to believe that Democrats will need to back off their spending goals to earn GOP votes -- or suffer the consequences of a default.
Given McConnell’s own personal unpopularity, he could also incur considerable blame from voters.
Quoting The Wall Street Journal editorial board, Schumer underlined the fact that “Raising the debt limit wouldn’t facilitate future spending… Congress would still need to raise the debt limit this fall even if no new major programs were enacted.”
Schumer then challenged McConnell’s caucus to break with their leader.
“Hopefully there are some who will rise to their responsibility and abandon this crass, craven political move with such harm to the U.S. that the Republican leader has proffered,” Schumer said. “Democrats are going to do the responsible thing and vote to extend the debt limit when the time comes. We will see which of our Republican colleagues on the other side will have the strength, the courage to follow suit.”