As G.O.P. Digs In on Debt Ceiling, Democrats Try Shaming McConnell

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Senator Mitch McConnell says Republicans will not support raising the federal borrowing limit. A few weeks before a possible lapse, Democrats appear to have no strategy for doing so.

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WASHINGTON — With the government in full confidence and credit on the line, the Democratic leadership’s strategy to raise the federal borrowing limit appears to be this: Try to embarrass the impassioned Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to surrender.

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He tried this tactic unsuccessfully in 2012, when Mr McConnell blocked the nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court, maintaining that voters should decide who to name the next justice when the president is elected in November. Will keep He tried and failed again at the end of last year, weeks before the presidential election, when the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opened the Supreme Court seat to fill Judge Amy Connie Barrett, no matter what voters voted for a month and a half later. Had to say

Now, with a possible government default weeks away, Democrats are again seeking McConnell – this time from his resolve to lead Republicans in opposition to raising statutory limits on the Treasury Department’s right to borrow.

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“Let’s be clear,” Mr McConnell wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “With a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate, Democrats have every tool they need to raise the debt limit. It is their sole responsibility. Republicans will not facilitate another reckless, partisan tax and spending spree. “

While Democratic attention has largely focused on passing a massive, 10-year, $3.5 trillion social policy bill, a potentially more consequential deadline is fast approaching: Sometime in October, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Government account will end in government account. The Treasury will no longer be able to pay all of the nation’s creditors unless Congress raises or suspends debt issuance limits.

A default would be unprecedented, and it could lead to a far-reaching financial crisis – or at least a crisis in confidence for governments, banks and other creditors who keep the federal government afloat by buying their bonds and notes.

But Mr McConnell is adamant that if Democrats insist on spending trillions of dollars on infrastructure, climate change and social welfare, they will have to bear special responsibility for raising the borrowing limit. A purely Democratic vote to raise the debt limit would, of course, strengthen Republican political attacks on what they characterize as an out-of-control, “socialist” party.

“Mitch McConnell is the most scrutinized leader; he’s not a hoax,” said Scott Jennings, a former McConnell aide and political strategist in Kentucky. “All you have to do is listen to what he’s saying. He’s not going to budge.”

There are two problems with Mr McConnell’s argument. First, the reason the government is crashing in its debt limit is the Trump years of tax cuts and free spending. As Democrats note, raising the limit is the equivalent of paying a credit card bill for the nation’s past actions, not future spending.

The last time the issue came up in August 2019, Congress and President Donald J. Trump suspended the loan limit till July 31 this year. On August 2, the Treasury reset the debt limit to $28.4 trillion, and the government crashed days later, less than seven months into President Biden’s term.

Second, a debt ceiling increase would certainly require the approval of at least Senate Republicans in order to overcome a filibuster and be moved in one vote. Mr McConnell wants Democrats to add a debt limit increase to the social policy bill, which is being drafted under budget rules that would allow it to pass with 51 Senate votes.

But Democrats said weeks ago that they would not. Given the difficulty in reaching a nearly unanimous democratic agreement on the measure – and a series of procedural hurdles they would have to overcome – it would be impossible to make it to the House and Senate floors in time to avoid default.

Democrats say he helped Mr Trump and Republican leaders deal with the debt limit, and that fairness now dictates bipartisanship, especially on such a consequential matter. Hence the shame campaign.

If Senator McConnell and Senate Republicans choose to default to avoid paying off the loans that helped rack up under President Trump, it would devastate the economy and irreparably damage the financial state of our nation, his party and himself. “Senator McConnell will go down in history as the first person in history to force a default, and every single American will know that Senate.” Republicans are to blame.”

Mr. McConnell is not the only target of the Democrats; He says other Senate Republicans, such as Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, understand what’s at stake. Democratic leaders are likely to attach a debt limit increase to an emergency spending bill that includes funding for Hurricane Ida reconstruction, wildfire management and Afghan refugee resettlement; They will then dare Republican senators and other interested lawmakers from Louisiana, Idaho and Montana to vote later this month.

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