Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that Democrats should expect zero help from Republicans in their effort to raise the debt ceiling, previewing a looming fight this fall over the nation’s borrowing limit, which Congress must approve.
“Democrats are about to tell Republicans to go take a hike, and start keying up trillion more dollars in borrowing and spending,” McConnell said in Senate floor remarks. “They want Republicans to give them political cover for the partisan debt bomb that they’ll go right on to detonate with zero input from my colleagues.”
“They won’t get our help,” the Kentucky Republican continued. “They won’t get our help with the debt limit increase that recklessly, that these reckless plans will require. I could not be more clear. They have the ability. They control the White House, they control the House, they control the Senate. They can raise the debt ceiling and if it’s raised, they will do it.”
The remarks come as House and Senate Democrats are weighing attaching the increase in the national borrowing limit to a must-pass funding bill this fall, a risky gambit that would essentially dare Republicans into backing the package or risk a potential debt default and government shutdown, according to multiple Democratic sources.
McConnell has repeatedly said Democrats must raise the limit themselves after pushing through multi-trillion-dollar measures this year, using their budget reconciliation bill that only requires 51 votes to pass, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.
But Democrats say they shouldn’t be forced to shoulder the burden of the politically toxic vote themselves, especially given the debt that was piled up during the Trump administration. And they are instead looking at adding the debt ceiling hike to a bill to keep the government open past September 30, pressuring Republicans to help carry the measure to avoid an economic calamity. That move would require 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster, meaning 10 Republicans would have to join with 50 Democrats.
While a source familiar with the matter tells CNN that no decision has been made yet, another source said that there is a growing sense in the caucus that including the debt ceiling increase in the reconciliation bill would let Republicans off the hook for spending that was a result of legislation in the Trump administration too.
“We’re going to make sure what Mitch McConnell can’t do to President Biden what was done to Barack Obama, which was to hold them hostage,” said Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.
The first indication of what step Democrats will take will come as soon as this weekend when they could unveil their chamber’s budget resolution. If they plan to move a debt ceiling hike without GOP support, then the resolution would include provisions indicating they plan to draft reconciliation legislation that would raise the borrowing limit. But if it’s silent on the issue, then Democrats plan to try to jam Republicans in the Senate and attach it to the funding bill in the fall.
Republicans call the move reckless, arguing that Democrats could just do it on their own.
“I can’t imagine giving them that assurance when they have the capacity — on their own — to prevent that from ever being a reality,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, referring to a potential default.
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