Republicans Won't Vote to Raise Debt Limit Given Democrats' Partisan Budget Plans: McConnell

Republicans Won't Vote to Raise Debt Limit Given Democrats' Partisan Budget Plans: McConnell
Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) (C) speaks to reporters as other senators stand by in Washington on Sept. 22, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Senate Republicans won't vote to raise the country's debt limit because of Democrats' plans to spend trillions of dollars, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republican leaders said on Sept. 22.

The House of Representatives voted this week along party lines to approve a bill that includes suspending the debt limit until after the 2022 midterm elections. The Senate plans to vote on the measure next week.

"We all agree, America must never default. The debt ceiling will need to be raised," McConnell told reporters in Washington.

But the Democrats' "reckless" spending plans, including one measure that's been pegged at $3.5 trillion, and the way in which Democrats have been operating "on a partisan basis," means that the party will have to figure out how to raise the debt ceiling without Republican votes, according to McConnell.

"The Democrats can deal with us all by themselves, because they have the House, the White House, and the Senate. So this is their responsibility," said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman.

Democrats have a 220–212 majority in the House and a one-vote majority in the evenly split Senate, thanks to their control of the White House.

However, Democrats have struggled to pass legislation since President Joe Biden took office. Republicans have criticized many of their plans, and several moderate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), have refused to vote for some of the more radical proposals.

Last week, the White House warned that the looming federal debt crisis could lead to a recession as it has pushed for raising or suspending the debt ceiling. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, tried on Sept. 19 to blame McConnell for the failure to get a measure approved that would do either.

"The position that Republicans, primarily Sen. Mitch McConnell, have taken is totally irresponsible," Yarmuth said. "Mitch just said that every Republican in the United States Senate was prepared to vote to have the federal government default. That's what he said. I think that's a violation of the constitutional oath. It would be financial havoc if we actually defaulted."

Yarmuth noted on Sept. 20 that Democrats can raise the debt limit without any Republican votes. But he said they don't want to do that.

"They don't want people to know how much money they want to spend and borrow. They don't want the American public to know they don't want to put a dollar figure on their irresponsible reckless spending," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the Senate Republican Conference chairman, told reporters on Sept. 22.

"The American people can see through this. They know that they're going to be taxed, everyone's going to ultimately pay one way or another through inflation, through higher taxes on their income on their retirement savings, even on death. If the Democrats want to go it alone on spending, they're going to have to go it alone on raising the debt ceiling."

Democrats and Republicans worked out a suspension of the debt ceiling in 2019, and then-President Donald Trump signed the measure. The ceiling was suspended for two years, but came back into effect on July 31. The ceiling is the highest amount of debt that the Department of Treasury can issue to the public or other federal agencies, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It was reset in 2021 to $22 trillion, plus the borrowing that took place during the suspension.