McConnell says he won’t help Dems raise debt limit again

ap photo Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks to a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Thursday in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday he would not again help Democrats extend the government’s borrowing authority, raising fresh doubts about how Congress will avert a federal default when a temporary patch expires in December.

McConnell issued his warning in a letter to President Joe Biden a day after the Senate approved a $480 billion boost in the federal debt limit, enough to last about two months. In an eleventh-hour turnabout, the Kentucky Republican was among 11 GOP senators who provided decisive support Thursday for a procedural move that opened the door for subsequent Senate passage of that measure with only Democratic support.

Some GOP senators openly criticized their leaders not holding out longer against Democrats’ efforts to extend the debt limit, which they said would have sharpened their message that a still-developing multibillion-dollar package of Biden’s top domestic priorities is wasteful and damaging to the economy.

McConnell said Friday that he made his decision to refuse future help because of his opposition to the huge domestic bill and because of a “bizarre spectacle” on the Senate floor by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. After the bill passed, Schumer criticized Republicans for trying to push the country over “the cliff’s edge” by opposing the debt limit extension.

“In light of Senator Schumer’s hysterics and my grave concerns about the ways that another vast, reckless, partisan spending bill would hurt Americans and help China, I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement,” McConnell wrote.

It remains unclear how Democrats would push new legislation further extending federal borrowing authority come December without GOP backing.

One theoretical way is for them to change Senate rules and shield debt limit legislation from GOP filibusters, delays that require 60 votes to overcome in the 50-50 Senate.

At least two Democratic senators, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, have said they oppose doing that, effectively thwarting that option. Republicans said one factor in providing Democrats the two-month lifeline was fear that Manchin and Sinema might decide to support ending filibusters for debt limit legislation.

McConnell’s letter included a string of insults aimed at Schumer, a remarkable broadside by one Senate leader against another.

“Last night, in a bizarre spectacle, Senator Schumer exploded in a rant that was so partisan, angry, and corrosive that even Democratic Senators were visibly embarrassed by him and for him,” McConnell wrote. “This tantrum encapsulated and escalated a pattern of angry incompetence from Senator Schumer.”

McConnell added: “This childish behavior only further alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate this short-term patch. It has poisoned the well even further.”

A Schumer spokesperson declined to comment on McConnell’s letter.

Since summer, McConnell repeatedly said Republicans would not assist Democrats in pushing a debt ceiling extension through the Senate by helping them reach the 60 votes needed for most legislation. He cited Democrats’ proposed 10-year, $3.5 trillion social, economic and tax measure, which Republicans unanimously oppose.

Hours before Thursday’s vote, McConnell reversed course and proposed a short-term extension into December. Without a renewal of federal borrowing powers, the Treasury Department had projected it would run out of cash to pay the government’s bills by Oct. 18.

Republicans lambasting McConnell’s tactic included former President Donald Trump, still influential within the GOP.


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