Here they go again: A government shutdown is coming after funding expires on September 30, unless Congress extends funding. House Democrats passed a bill Tuesday to do just that, and to suspend the debt limit until December 16, 2022. As a bonus, the House bill, which passed 220 to 211, includes $28.6 billion in disaster relief funding and $6.3 billion to help Afghanistan evacuees.
Senate Republicans are determined to block it. Because of course they are. Senate Republicans want the nation to suffer and fail if they think it will gain them a tiny shred of partisan advantage.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that Republicans are “united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling.” That would mean they are united in opposition to allowing the United States of America to pay its bills, forcing it instead to default. Republicans blocking a debt limit suspension could send the U.S. into a deep recession, killing six million jobs and nearly doubling the unemployment rate, according to one study. Except Republicans aren’t united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling, they’re united in opposition to Republicans voting to raise the debt ceiling. They want this to happen, it’s just that McConnell is trying to make Democrats raise the debt limit in a reconciliation bill, so he can whine and moan about how autocratic they are and Republicans had nothing to do with this.
And for that, Republicans will filibuster a bill keeping the government open past a possible shutdown deadline of next week and raising the debt limit before the federal government stops being able to pay its bills, as early as mid October.
The Democratic position is that both parts of this are fundamental parts of governing, and they should be bipartisan.
”This is nothing short of a dine-and-dash of historic proportions,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted. “Republicans racked trillions of dollars of debt under Trump and are now demanding American families bear the consequences of default. We will work raise the debt ceiling and avoid irreparable economic harm.”
Good point, Chuck! Under Donald Trump, the national debt rose by nearly $7.8 trillion. According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the 2017 Republican tax law will raise the debt by $1.9 trillion over 10 years. That’s the bill Republicans are now so opposed to paying.
Noting that 97% of the debt in question existed before Joe Biden became president, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Even if the Biden administration hadn’t authorized any spending, we would still need to address the debt ceiling now.” Yet Republicans say this is a problem for Democrats. And, Yellen explained, it’s a problem for the country, because “the overwhelming consensus among economists and Treasury officials of both parties is that failing to raise the debt limit would produce widespread economic catastrophe.”
What does that mean? Yellen continued, “In a matter of days, millions of Americans could be strapped for cash. We could see indefinite delays in critical payments. Nearly 50 million seniors could stop receiving Social Security checks for a time. Troops could go unpaid. Millions of families who rely on the monthly child tax credit could see delays. America, in short, would default on its obligations.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell also highlighted the stakes:
Taking the government hostage is always one of the first tools Mitch McConnell reaches for, whether he’s in the minority or the majority. And too many reporters help him out, by suggesting that Democrats are equally engaged in petty partisan fights every time Democrats refuse to fold to McConnell’s manipulations. Literally McConnell has told reporters that he wants the debt ceiling to be raised, he just doesn’t want to vote to do it, and reporters are saying things like “By attaching the debt limit suspension to the must-pass funding bill, Democrats are essentially daring Republicans to vote no and spark a shutdown.” Rather than “By attaching the debt limit suspension to the must-pass funding bill, Democrats are calling on Republicans to do their jobs rather than taking hostages.”
So let’s lay it out in absolutely clear terms: Republicans were in control of the White House and the Senate in 2019, when the debt limit was suspended until 2021. The Republican 2017 tax law, among other things, added substantially to the debt. Republicans now say they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling to prevent the U.S. defaulting on its debts, because—and they are explicit about this—they want to force Democrats to unilaterally do a thing Republicans think needs to be done.
Any media coverage that does not reflect this reality is doing Mitch McConnell’s partisan work for him.