Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) blocked Democrats’ latest attempt to stave off economic disaster on Tuesday — and the more options Republicans shoot down to avoid a shutdown and debt default, the more the already fragile economy is at risk.
McConnell rejected a call from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) on Tuesday for unanimous consent from the Senate to allow Democrats to pass a debt ceiling raise with a simple majority. If lawmakers don’t reach a solution on the debt limit and government funding by Thursday, the government will shut down and the U.S. would come closer to defaulting on its loans, a situation that economists say could be nothing short of disastrous.
Instead of several workarounds that Democrats could employ, McConnell is insistent that they bend to his party’s will and work a debt ceiling raise into their reconciliation bill. But Democrats have made clear that it would be difficult — if not impossible — to go through Senate procedure quickly enough to pass the reconciliation bill before the country is slated to default. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says a default will happen on October 18 if Congress doesn’t take action.
“To do this through reconciliation requires ping-ponging separate bills back from the Senate and the House.” Schumer said on Wednesday, according to NBC’s Frank Thorp. “Individual senators could move to delay and delay and delay. It is very risky and could well lead us to default, even if only one senator wanted.” Schumer went on to call the strategy “uncharted waters.”
McConnell’s decision to shoot down yet another debt ceiling option makes the GOP’s motivations even more clear: Republicans would rather risk economic disaster than allow Democrats to pass their legislative agenda.
“There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy, so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible,” the minority leader said on Tuesday. Despite McConnell’s fear mongering, the provisions of the Build Back Better Act do not include suddenly implementing socialism.
However, other Republicans have been falling in line with McConnell’s dangerous obstruction. “Schumer is in the process of surrendering completely,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), per HuffPost’s Igor Bobic. “I expect that Schumer when he’s done with his political games he will do what we pointed out at the beginning, which is raise the debt ceiling using Democratic votes on reconciliation.”
GOP lawmakers know that the reconciliation bill is in no position to pass the Senate, as it has no Republican support and conservative Democrats are working to water down the bill as much as possible. But the party leadership doesn’t actually want Democrats to pass the reconciliation bill and raise the debt ceiling — instead, they want to gut the reconciliation bill and ruin the Democrats’ chances at passing their agenda.
“We plan to use the rules to slow down a lot of really bad policy,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, according to a Forbes report. Referring to the possibility that Democrats will have to go through reconciliation to pass the debt ceiling, he continued: “I don’t mind seeing them burn up some floor time on reconciliation.”
In what is an extreme and reckless show of obstructionism, McConnell and fellow Republicans are putting the economy’s health at massive risk. Unless Democrats are able to pass a temporary measure to fund the government — one of their only options left — the U.S. will likely have to default on its loans, a scenario that Yellen says would be unprecedented.
A default would have catastrophic consequences for the economy. A Moody’s Analytics analysis last week found that a default could trigger a recession mirroring the Great Recession of 2008, costing six million jobs and yanking $15 trillion worth of household wealth out of the hands of the public. Even sans default, economists say that a short government shutdown, which becomes more likely every time Republicans shoot down another solution, would have generational consequences.
It’s ironic for Republicans to accuse Democrats of playing political games when they are risking a recession just to block Democrats from passing a bill that would have major benefits to the working class — and then pinning all of the blame on Democrats.
If Democrats do go the reconciliation route — which is unlikely given Schumer’s objections, but possible given the desperation of the situation — some writers and economists are saying that Democrats should use the opportunity to nullify the debt limit entirely. This would eliminate the possibility of politicians using it as a political pawn and would simply make the government run smoother, advocates say.