Key Point: “What keeps getting lost in all the discussion, as one Democrat correctly pointed out to me, is that the Republican position is essentially to threaten to vote to default. That’s insane and reckless, and media accounts should find a way to communicate this to viewers and readers.”
Washington Post: Opinion: Mitch McConnell’s debt limit game-playing is lunacy, and we should say so
By Greg Sargent
September 15, 2021
The current position held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and most Republican senators is that this fall they will vote in favor of the United States defaulting on its debts, leading to economic Armageddon.
You don’t hear their position described this way in many press accounts, to be sure. But that is functionally their position: They are threatening to withhold all GOP support when Congress votes to suspend the debt limit, probably sometime in October.
If the debt limit is not suspended or raised, the United States will default, with horrible consequences, and Republicans are threatening to vote no.
McConnell spelled out his position in new detail in an interview with Punchbowl News. He says Democrats must suspend or raise the debt limit as part of their multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill, where they can do so by simple majority, without any Republicans.
If they do not, McConnell says, no Republicans will support suspending it or raising it as part of some other process, say, via a “clean” debt limit bill, or as part of a continuing resolution funding the government at the end of September (which would require 60 votes to overcome a GOP filibuster).
This is being widely portrayed as creating a dilemma for Democrats. And that’s true, if only in the sense that epic Republican bad faith is creating a dilemma for the more responsible party.
Democrats joined with Republicans to suspend the debt limit under President Donald Trump, and a good deal of debt was racked up during that period. Given this, Democrats are insisting that Republicans must join them to suspend the debt limit this time — suspending it would effectively render it inoperative until a future date — and they are daring Republicans to vote no.
One way Democrats might do this — which is favored by the White House — is to bundle the debt limit suspension with a government funding bill that would also include huge amounts of disaster aid, much of it for red states. The thinking is this disaster money should make it harder for Republicans to vote against it.
Remarkably, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) insists not only that this won’t pass but also the mere fact that Democrats might do this shows they’re operating “in bad faith” and don’t actually have the “back” of disaster-sufferers.
Just try to fathom how deranged that position truly is. Republicans insist Democrats must deal with the debt limit themselves, with no Republican support, and if Democrats package this with other things that must be done — such as disaster aid or funding the government — that’s somehow placing unfair pressure on Republicans to join in raising it.
But Republicans themselves agree the debt limit must be suspended or raised. Kennedy agrees with this. So does McConnell! As McConnell puts it, “America should never and never will default.”
So why shouldn’t they feel obliged to actually vote to suspend or raise the debt limit for the good of the country, just as Democrats did under a Republican president, when this also had to be done for the good of the country?
Pressed on this by Punchbowl News, McConnell offered an invented principle: When Democrats are in the majority, it is solely their responsibility to deal with this. “They’re in charge of this government,” McConnell said.
Of course, Republicans will be creating the need for this to clear a 60-vote threshold by filibustering; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is already threatening exactly this.
One might argue that precisely because Republicans are stooping to such depths, Democrats should indeed dispense with the debt limit by simple majority in the reconciliation process, rather than gamble on whether Republicans really will withhold their votes in the end.
But all that aside, what keeps getting lost in all the discussion, as one Democrat correctly pointed out to me, is that the Republican position is essentially to threaten to vote to default. That’s insane and reckless, and media accounts should find a way to communicate this to viewers and readers.