McConnell presses Biden on debt limit increase

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McConnell presses Biden on debt limit increase

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is ramping up pressure on Democrats to act on the debt ceiling alone, reasserting that Republicans will not aid them in increasing the federal government’s borrowing limit in a letter sent to President Biden on Monday. 

The Kentucky Republican argued that Democrats are “nation is sleepwalking toward significant and avoidable danger” as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tees up a doomed vote on a House-passed, standalone debt limit measure, with GOP lawmakers holding firm in their position it should be addressed along party lines. Republicans have argued that they can’t back the increase, alleging that it would greenlight Democrats’ plans to pass a multi-trillion social spending package they feel will exacerbate inflation and have a negative impact on the economy. 

“For many years, our working relationship has been defined not only by our strong disagreements, but also by mutual transparency and respectful candor. I write in that spirit to express concern that our nation is sleepwalking toward significant and avoidable danger because of confusion and inaction from the Speaker of the House and the Senate Democratic Leader concerning basic governing duties,” McConnell wrote, noting he has warned members across the aisle they would not receive GOP support on the measure since July.   

McConnell criticized President Joe Biden and Democrats for using a "party-line reconciliation process" to attempt to pass spending bills.
McConnell criticized President Joe Biden and Democrats for using a “party-line reconciliation process” to attempt to pass spending bills.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

“All year, your party has chosen to pursue staggering, ‘transformational’ spending through unprecedented use of the party-line reconciliation process. Democrats inherited bipartisan trends from COVID relief to appropriations but have chosen to govern alone. Even now, with Americans already facing painful inflation, Democrats are preparing another staggering taxing and spending spree without any Republican input or support.” 

While Democrats have repeatedly said that passing a debt ceiling increase along party lines sets a bad precedent — with leaders in both chambers arguing it’s necessary to pay for the previous administration’s spending and noting it was raised multiple times with bipartisan support under Republican control — GOP lawmakers have pressed Democrats to use the reconciliation process, allowing them to bypass the 60-vote threshold in the upper chamber.  

“Bipartisanship is not a light switch that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer may flip on to borrow money and flip off to spend it,” he continued. 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 went on to argue that a single party raising the debt limit is not unprecedented, citing Biden holding with Democrats when he was in the Senate in opting not to support GOP calls to increase the spending limit. 

McConnell said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker want to use bipartisanship like a "light switch."
McConnell said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker want to use bipartisanship like a “light switch.”
Rod Lamkey – CNP / MEGA

“As you and I know from shared Senate experience, this is not unusual. The debt limit is often a partisan vote during times of unified government. In 2003, 2004, and 2006, Mr. President, you joined Senate Democrats in opposing debt limit increases and made Republicans do it ourselves,” he wrote. 

“You explained on the Senate floor that your ‘no’ votes did not mean you wanted the majority to let the country default, but rather that the President’s party had to take responsibility for a policy agenda which you opposed. Your view then is our view now.” 

McConnell noted that using the reconciliation process would not impact Democrats’ plans to use the process to pass the partisan social spending package, which looks to address some of the Biden administration’s top priorities including climate change and the expansion of social programs like Medicare. 

“There is one difference between then and now: Leader Schumer requested and won new powers to repeatedly reuse the fast-track, party-line reconciliation process. As a result, Senate Democrats do not need Republican cooperation in any shape or form to do their job,” he said. “Democrats do not need our consent to set a vote at 51 instead of 60.”

“… Republicans will not build Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer a shortcut around procedural hurdles they can clear on their own so they have a more convenient path to jam us with a partisan taxing and spending spree,” he added. 

The Kentucky Republican then alleged that Democrats “simply cannot govern or they would rather play chicken with the U.S. economy than accept reality.”  

“… Mr. President, I respectfully submit that it is time for you to engage directly with congressional Democrats on this matter. 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,” he said. 

Top economists and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have warned that the country has until Oct. 18 before it will default on its financial obligations, cautioning it could have a “catastrophic” impact on the economy and financial markets. 

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