McConnell seizes on debt standoff to undermine Biden agenda

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In a frantic bid to avert defaults on the nation’s debt, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell held a position of unusual power—one that orchestrated both the problem and the solution.

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McConnell is no longer a majority leader, but he is raising his minority status in complex and unknown ways in an effort to stifle President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, even if doing so may propel the country into serious economic uncertainty.

All told, the aftermath of this debt crisis has left zero confidence that there will be no next one. In fact, McConnell ended the impasse, which ensures that Congress will be in the same place in December when money next runs out to pay America’s bills. That means another potentially catastrophic debt showdown, all as the COVID-19 crisis and economy struggles to recover.


“Mitch McConnell loves chaos,” said D-Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. “He is a very clever tactician and strategist, but the country often pays the price for his actions.”

The crisis has cemented McConnell’s legacy as a master in the wrong direction. He is the architect of the impasse and the one who solved it, if only for the short term. More battles are to come as Democrats narrow Biden’s larger agenda, now expanding $2 trillion of health, child care and climate change programs, all paid for with taxes on corporations and the wealthy opposing Republicans.

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To some Republicans, McConnell is a shrewd leader who uses every tool at his disposal to take advantage of power and undermine Biden’s priorities. To others, including Donald Trump, he is too vulnerable to be “cave” too soon. For Democrats, McConnell remains an infuriating opponent who has shown yet again that he is ready to break one institutional norms after another to pursue Republican power.

Republican strategist Alex Conant said, “McConnell’s role is that of the leader of the opposition and it is his job to do what the majority wants to do.”

“No one should be surprised to see a Republican leader making the job of Democrats difficult,” he said.

The risks are clear, not only for Biden and the Democrats who control Washington.

The debt showdown portrayed Democrats as big spenders, ready to boost the country’s now $28.4 trillion in debt to pay the bills. But both parties have contributed to that burden because the government rarely operates in the dark because of past decisions.

Republicans, too, take risks from all sides of their deeply divided party. In mitigating the crisis, McConnell shielded his Republicans from further blame, but angered Trump and his allies, who are eager to skewer the Kentucky senator to deliver.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he told his aides during a private meeting before the loan vote that it was “a mistake for the Republican leadership to agree to the deal.”

Raising the debt limit has become a political weapon, especially for Republicans, to rail against government spending, once a routine vote to ensure the country’s bills are paid. A decade ago the Tea Party class of Republicans brought the country to the brink of default on the issue and set out a new GOP strategy.

In this case, McConnell made it clear that he had no other demand than to disrupt Biden’s domestic agenda, the now $2 trillion package that the president signed into law, but “socialist tax-and-spend” by Republicans. has been ridiculed as”.

To pass Biden’s agenda, Democrats are relying on a complicated process, the budget reconciliation process, that allows for 51 votes to approve instead of the 60 usually required to overcome Senate objections. In a 50–50 split Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris gave a majority to the Democrats, in what was her ability to cast a tiebreaking vote.

McConnell captured the Democratic budget strategy as a way of complicating the issues, announcing months ago that he wanted Democrats to raise the debt limit on their own using the same process. It was his way of linking Biden’s large federal government overhaul to the country’s growing debt burden, even though they are separate and have not implemented much of Biden’s agenda.

The debt-raising vote has rarely been popular, and both parties have had to do it on their own. But McConnell created new legislative ground in trying to set the terms to Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., quickly ignored McConnell’s demands for a cumbersome process, agreeing to pass the debt ceiling bill along the more traditional route.

As the October 18 deadline drew near, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the government would run out of funds to pay the nation’s bills, Schumer’s strategy struck a Republican blockade, or filibuster. After business pressure mounted and Biden pushed Republicans to “get out of the way,” McConnell called the time out.

McConnell on Thursday night worked a way around the problem by allowing the traditional vote and even teamed up with 10 other Republican senators to help Democrats reach the 60-vote threshold needed to ease the crisis. did.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki commended Republicans who “did their job tonight, ending the filibuster and allowing Democrats to work on raising the debt limit.” But he urged the parties to come together to find a more permanent solution.

“We cannot allow the routine process of paying our bills every two years or every two months to turn into a confident political showdown,” he said.

Schumer struck a louder tone.

“The Republicans played a dangerous and risky partisan game, and I’m glad their chivalry didn’t work,” he said.

He also brought trouble: McConnell said in a letter to Biden…

Credit: / Mitch McConnell

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