President Biden on Wednesday resorted to histrionics, saying that a “meteor” could crash into the US economy if Congress doesn’t raise the government’s debt ceiling — even as Republicans noted that Democrats can simply lift the spending cap on their own.
Biden insisted Republicans could cause the US to default on its debt after an Oct. 18 deadline as he attempted to undercut conservative pressure on Democrats to own the vote as they push for trillions in new spending.
“The United States is the financial rock the world looks to and trusts. Now in one cynical destructive partisan ploy — just for politics — our Republican friends are teetering on that brink here. They are threatening to boot that all away,” Biden said at a virtual gathering with business leaders.
“Now it’s a meteor headed to crash into our economy. We should all want to stop it and stop it immediately. This shouldn’t be partisan.”
Biden said “raising the debt limit is paying our old debts. There’s nothing to do with new spending.”
He added, “Our markets are rattled. America’s savings are on the line. The American people — your savings, your pocketbook — are directly impacted by this stunt … Our Republican friends need to stop playing Russian roulette with the US economy.”
Biden didn’t take questions from reporters and the White House’s video feed cut off mid-sentence after business leaders including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon offered support for Biden’s stance.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called on Democrats to use special budget reconciliation rules to raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote in the evenly divided Senate.
“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 said Monday.
As the president was speaking, the minority leader called Democrats’ bluff over the issue, saying: “We have already made it clear we would assist in expediting the 304 reconciliation process for stand-alone debt-limit legislation. To protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis, we will also allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December.
“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass stand-alone debt limit legislation through reconciliation. Alternatively, if Democrats abandon their efforts to ram through another historically reckless taxing and spending spree that will hurt families and help China, a more traditional bipartisan governing conversation could be possible.”
The Republican leader supported a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate 69-30 in August, but he is leading opposition to Democratic plans to pass a larger, $3.5 trillion social spending and tax hike bill without Republican support using budget reconciliation.
The Democrat-held House passed a bill to lift the debt ceiling, but Republicans would have to support a 60-vote cloture motion for that bill to proceed in the Senate.
Debt ceiling legislation often is subject to brinkmanship and it’s possible that a compromise would extend spending without Democrats having to use a reconciliation bill — something they are averse to doing because Congress can only use the special procedure occasionally in accordance with legislative rules.
Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose opposition to the size of the $3.5 trillion social spending plan has slowed its path, said this week that the US won’t default on its debt — signaling he would not stand in the way of a Democrat-only move to raise the spending cap.
Manchin also indicated that he’s reluctant to back a change in filibuster rules that require 60 votes for non-budget reconciliation bills.
“We will not let this country default,” Manchin said Tuesday. “The filibuster has nothing to do with the debt ceiling. Basically, we have other tools that we can use, and if we have to use them, we should use them.”