Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Monday doubled down on his pledge that Republicans won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on Congress to pass an increase to the limit via regular order, meaning at least 10 Senate Republicans would have to vote for it to break a filibuster.
“I thought my colleagues were thrilled to present another reckless taxing and spending spree to the American people,” McConnell, R-Ky., said. “Shouldn’t Democrats be proud to own all the debt it requires?”
McConnell has framed his call for all Republicans to vote against raising the debt ceiling as a protest of the $3.5 trillion spending plan Democrats plan to advance under budget reconciliation. Using that procedural gambit, Democrats can get around the Senate filibuster and cut out Republicans.
The GOP leader said Democrats should “have total ownership” of their “socialist shopping list” and therefore raise the debt ceiling on their own using the budget reconciliation process that empowers them to do so without GOP votes.
But Yellen Monday responded that Congress should increase the limit in a bipartisan manner, as it has done in the past. She specifically noted that raising the debt ceiling is not technically connected to any specific bills.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber as the Senate prepares for a key test vote later on the For the People Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. McConnell is promising that Republicans will not vote to increase the debt ceiling in a protest against Democrats’ spending plans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
“[I]ncreasing or suspending the debt limit does not increase government spending, nor does it authorize spending for future budget proposals; it simply allows Treasury to pay for previously enacted expenditures,” she said. “In recent years Congress has addressed the debt limit through regular order, with broad bipartisan support.”
McConnell countered that the enormity of Democrats’ spending plans requires extraordinary action from Republicans.
The $3.5 trillion in spending would add to the $1.9 trillion spending bill Democrats passed earlier this year, the approximately $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill the Senate is about to pass and the several trillions in coronavirus relief the government doled out in 2020.
“I understand the administration sent out the Treasury Secretary to argue that, historically, both parties have addressed the debt ceiling together,” he said.
“Of course, it’s our Senate Democratic colleagues who have no interest in what is historically normal,” McConnell added. “Their borrowing and spending are historically abnormal. Democrats keep boasting about how wild and revolutionary their partisan vision is.”
Republicans, in the eyes of many, have lost credibility on the issue of fiscal responsibility. They criticized former President Barack Obama for his spending. But when they took power during the Trump administration, the federal deficit increased significantly, even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Nevertheless, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Republicans’ most high-profile deficit-increasing policy, the 2017 tax cuts, is projected to increase the national deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That’s well under half the cost of what Democrats plan to pass under budget reconciliation, as part of President Biden’s $5 trillion-plus agenda.
“Democrats have all the existing tools they need to raise the debt limit on a partisan basis. If they want 50 lockstep Democratic votes to spend trillions and trillions more, they can find 50 Democratic votes to finance it,” McConnell added. “Our colleagues seem confident that Chairman Sanders’ vision is worth sticking our kids and grandkids with a massive bill.”
Despite McConnell’s threats, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said it’s all a bluff. “At the end of the day, Republicans understand that in the midst of COVID and climate change, they are not going to destroy the global economy,” Sanders said. “The United States government has always paid its bills and it will pay its bills.”
Democrats did not include anything about raising the debt ceiling in their budget resolution, the text of which was released Monday. That resolution will allow them to use budget reconciliation to bypass Republicans. They can still include a debt ceiling increase in the reconciliation bill, however.
Thanks to a ruling from the parliamentarian touted by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Democrats can also revisit their reconciliation vehicle from earlier this year to raise the debt ceiling completely separately from their spending bill.
Democrats plan to start consideration of their reconciliation package later this week. But they face a minefield of hurdles in both the House and Senate, where slim majorities leave little margin for error.
Moderate lawmakers are already expressing concerns about the economic effects of so much government spending. But if the Democrats’ plans are scaled back too much to placate those lawmakers – like Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Sen Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. – then leaders risk alienating progressives like Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Fox News’ Kelly Phares contributed to this report.