Donald Trump may have wanted to get rid of Mitch McConnell, but like everything else, the man who’s been in public office for 50 years let it slide off his back. McConnell has gone through the wars and he has a solid base of support among GOP senators who respect his encyclopedic knowledge of procedure and precedent.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been royally outclassed and outmaneuvered by McConnell at almost every turn. And in a 50-50 Senate, that matters.
McConnell is refusing to give the Democrats any help whatsoever in raising the debt ceiling to allow the massive $3.5 trillion Biden budget bill to pass. As it stands now, the Treasury Department will be unable to meet its obligations under the current debt ceiling sometime in October. The government is already on borrowed time as the department shifts funds to rob Peter and pay Paul to keep the lights on in Washington. Eventually, that strategy will fail and government receipts won’t be able to cover what the government has to pay out to social security recipients, Medicare providers, and others who need that government check.
McConnell’s reasoning is simple.
“Let me make it perfectly clear. The country must never default. The debt ceiling will need to be raised. But who does that depends on who the American people elect,” McConnell told Punchbowl News on Tuesday, acknowledging he will vote for a policy outcome he says he doesn’t want to occur.
Because Democrats control the White House and both branches of Congress, his argument goes, they alone are responsible for safeguarding the government’s creditworthiness and preventing a potential economic calamity.
No such rule exists, nor has it ever.
McConnell reasons that the massive budget bill will have zero Republican support. Why should the GOP vote to increase the debt to allow its passage? It’s a purely political calculation and damned effective at that.
McConnell says he doesn’t want to breach the debt limit. He just wants to keep GOP hands clean of all this new spending in advance of the 2022 midterm elections.
Senate Republicans are so united behind McConnell that even their most centrist cohorts are holding back support for the Democratic plan to pass a new suspension of the debt limit tagged on to a bill to keep federal agencies functioning past the Sept. 30 deadline.
When Chuck Schumer has lost Susan Collins, he’s lost the war.
“The Democrats have added enormous amounts of debt, including the $1.9 trillion package, now $3.5 trillion on top of that, so they bear the responsibility for increasing the debt limit,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters this week.
Is McConnell’s position “responsible governance”? Not hardly. But there is all sorts of irresponsibility going around Washington these days. Why should McConnell play by rules that Democrats themselves have turned their backs on?