Senate Republicans Conflicted Over McConnell’s Debt Ceiling Deal
After months of promises by Senate Republicans not to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached a deal in the early hours of Thursday morning to suspend the debt limit until December. Despite McConnell’s support for the deal, Republicans are divided on the eleventh-hour agreement.
Still, Senate leadership was optimistic about the deal.
Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday, “I have some good news. We’ve reached an agreement on an extension of the debt ceiling through early December. It’s our hope we can get this done as soon as today.”
McConnell added later that the agreement will “spare the American people a manufactured crisis.”
The deal comes just days before the mid-October deadline given by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who warned that the United States would default for the first time in its history if the limit was not increased.
McConnell’s Deal a ‘Complete Capitulation’
But for many Republicans, who have staked a position against raising the debt ceiling since early August, McConnell’s deal with Schumer is unacceptable. These Republicans, angry about Democrats’ partisan use of the reconciliation process, have insisted that Democrats raise the debt ceiling through the same process.
Without the support of at least 10 members of his party and the full support of all 50 Democrats, McConnell’s deal will count for little if Republicans choose to filibuster it. Hours after the deal, many Republicans remain adamantly opposed to the deal.
One high profile Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) criticized the deal as “a complete capitulation.”
Graham explained “I don’t like using reconciliation to fundamentally change America to a socialist spending agenda. So why the hell would I make it easy for them to raise the debt ceiling through regular order? We had a strategy, we’ve abandoned this.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told reporters that he intended to vote no on cloture, which can be used to end debate on a bill to send it to a formal vote.
When asked whether he thought the debt limit suspension was a good deal, Scott answered indirectly, saying “I’m not voting for it.” This question was followed up by another, asking whether McConnell should have made the deal. Scott again answered indirectly, “I mean everyone gets to vote the way they want.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was lukewarm on the deal, but gave conditions that he thought would be necessary for his and other Republicans to allow the bill to go to a floor vote.
Most importantly, Johnson said, any resolution must “increase [the debt limit] by a set dollar amount so that we’re not giving [Democrats] a blank check.” He said that on these grounds he would oppose any resolution that would simply suspend the debt ceiling, which Schumer indicated that the bill would do.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) shared these concerns.
“I’m not willing to consent to anything that would … make it easier for Chuck Schumer and the Democrats to add trillions of dollars of debt,” Cruz said.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) also said that he would vote against advancing the deal.
Filibustering Deal Will Only ‘Delay the Inevitable’
Others in the Senate Republican caucus were a little less critical.
“I’m not excited about this deal,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), before adding that the deal is necessary “to prevent something worse.”
Asked whether he would join his colleagues in voting against cloture, Cornyn said, “I’m hoping we can avoid a cloture vote. I don’t see the point in [a cloture vote] other than just to delay the inevitable.”
But Cornyn did commit to voting against the deal itself. “Democrats will have to do it all by themselves,” he said.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) expressed the same sentiments.
“The sooner we get [the debt ceiling] issue completed,” the senator said, the sooner Republicans could “move on to other issues, such as the reconciliation process which is still a $3.5 trillion proposal.”
Rounds said that the party should “continue to focus on those, which is where most of the American people are at right now.”
Still others are undecided. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) have been noncommittal on how they will vote when the deal comes to the floor.