Keenly aware that they’re running out of time to avoid financial catastrophe, Democratic leaders are calling on Republicans to stop playing political games with their efforts to raise the debt ceiling.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told lawmakers they have until October 18 to increase the nation’s borrowing authority or else risk, for the first time in U.S. history, defaulting on the nation’s debt.
Democrats have tried, in vain thus far, to convince Republicans that insuring the continued full faith and credit of the United States is a bipartisan responsibility. Three times during the Trump administration, Democrats joined Republicans in increasing or suspending the debt limit.
But Republicans argue Democrats are not involving them in the trillions of dollars in legislative initiatives they’re trying to push through and so they should not expect the GOP to help write them a blank check for policies they oppose.
Last week, the House narrowly passed a bill to suspend the debt limit, but it appears likely to fail in the 50-50 Senate, where it would need 60 votes for passage should Republicans choose to filibuster it. Republican leaders have indicated they want to force Democrats to use the procedure known as budget reconciliation to pass the debt measure, the same procedure they are planning to use to try and pass President Joe Biden’s human infrastructure package.
On Monday, Biden tried to ratchet up the political pressure on Republican leadership in a White House address:
“So let’s be clear, not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they're threatening to use their power to prevent us from doing our job, saving the economy from a catastrophic event. I think quite frankly it's hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful. Their obstruction and irresponsibility knows absolutely no bounds.”
What Biden and Democratic leaders are asking is that the Republicans simply not filibuster the debt limit bill, but to just allow Democrats to pass it with a simple majority.
“We’re not asking them to vote yes,” said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “Just get out of the way.”
If Republicans don't "get out of the way," Democrats would likely have to use the convoluted and time-consuming reconciliation process to get a debt limit increase through the Senate.
The deadline to increase the nation's borrowing authority before the government starts missing payments, according to Yellen, is on or about October 18.
“I implore them one more time not to play Russian roulette with the American economy,” Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters on Tuesday. “They need to do this. They have the time do this.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) agreed, and said in a statement, “…they have had adequate time to use legislative tools at their disposal to raise the debt ceiling on their own – and nonpartisan experts agree that they still have the ability to increase it before late October via reconciliation.”
Democrats said forcing them to go the reconciliation route is reckless and hypocritical, and they'll vote on it Wednesday.