Mitch McConnell BLOCKS Chuck Schumer’s bid to raise debt limit

Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Chuck Schumer to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by a simple party-line vote, a move that could force Democrats  to do it the hard way. 

‘I’ve said for more than two months that we will not help this unified, Democratic government raise the debt ceiling. Democrats will not get bipartisan help borrowing money so they can immediately blow historic songs on a partisan tax and spending spree,’ McConnell, the Senate’s Repubican leader, said on the Senate floor.

‘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,’ he added.

Schumer essentially dared Republicans to block Democrats from raising the debt limit when he announced earlier Tuesday he will ask for unanimous consent to have a such an increase approved with a simple majority threshold – 50 votes – instead of the usual 60 vote margin to move legislation forward.  

‘We have given the Republicans what they want and now the ball is in their court,’ Schumer, the Senate’s Democratic leader, said on the Senate floor before making his legislative move. 

‘We are not asking them to vote yes. If Republicans want to vote to not pay the debts they helped incur, they can all vote no,’ he said. ‘We are just asking Republicans: get out of the way. Get out of the way when you are risking the full faith in credit of the United States, to play a nasty political game.’

He added: ‘We can bring this to a resolution today.’

Chuck Schumer said he doesn't want to use reconciliation ro raise the debt limit

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (left) blocked an attempt by senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (right) to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by a simple party-line vote

But unanimous consent means there can be zero objections and McConnell objected, stopping Schumer in his tracks. 

If McConnell hadn’t, another GOP senator would have. Senator Ted Cruz said earlier in the day he would do so.  

‘There is no universe in which I am going to consent to lower the three threshold and make it easier for him to do so he’s playing games. He knows he’s playing games. The games aren’t going to work,’ the Texas Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill. 

In the 50-50 evenly divided Senate, Schumer’s options are narrowing. 

The Republicans’ move could force him to use a legislative process known as reconciliation – which only requires 50 votes to move a bill forward instead of the ususal 60.

Schumer said on Tuesday that is not a move he’d like to use.

‘Using the drawn-out and convoluted reconciliation process is far too risky. Far too risky,’ he said. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, indicated she had a different opinion.

‘We’ll see what our options are,’ she said when asked if reconciliation was possible.

And House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters on Capitol Hill ‘it’s possible’ House votes on stand-alone debt limit bill on Wednesday, putting pressure on the Senate to follow their move. 

Additionally, under reconciliation, Democrats would have to agree to a specific number to raise the debt celing, instead of just generically increasing the nation’s borrowing limit, as the House did in the legislation it approved. 

Republicans would then likely use that number against Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections as they try to retake control of the Senate.  

Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated she was not opposed to using a legislative process known as reconciliation to raise the debt limit

Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated she was not opposed to using a legislative process known as reconciliation to raise the debt limit

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said government would run out of 'cash and extraordinary measures' on October 18

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said government would run out of ‘cash and extraordinary measures’ on October 18

The debt limit has become a major point of contention between the two parties. 

Democrats point out it was last raised with the help of Republicans under President Donald Trump and argue most of the debt came from the former president’s tax cuts. Republicans counter that Democrats spent too much government money with their trillion packages containing various COVID relief measures and don’t want to help them raise the debt ceiling to pay for them.

Adding to the pressure, Democrats Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote to Congressional leaders on Tuesday morning to warn the government would run out of ‘cash and extraordinary measures’ in the next few weeks.

‘We now estimate that Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by October 18,’ she wrote.

The U.S. has never defaulted on its debts in the modern era.

The debt ceiling is not the only issue Democratic leaders are dealing with this week. 

Government funding runs out Friday at midnight.  Additionally, Schumer and Pelosi are trying to move forward Biden’s economic agenda: his $1.1 trillion infrastructure plan and his $3.5 trillion budget package filled with social programs.

Here’s how things stand with the clocking ticking. 

GOVERNMENT FUNDING 

Democratic leaders are regrouping after Republicans on Monday blocked their short term spending bill because of the language to raise the debt limit. 

They hoped to knock out government funding and raising the government’s $28.4 trillion borrowing cap – which expires in mid October – in one punch. But now have to come up with a Plan B.

In order to keep the government open and running, Democrats could drop the debt ceiling provision.

‘It’s among our plans,’ Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday morning even as she declined to offer specifics on the next steps. ‘We have a number of things on with the debt ceiling, keep government open.

‘We have to do those imminently,’ she noted.   

Senate Republicans on Monday night blocked a Democratic bill to fund the government through December 3 as it contained a provision to raise the debt ceiling - the legislation needed 60 votes to move forward in the legislative process

Senate Republicans on Monday night blocked a Democratic bill to fund the government through December 3 as it contained a provision to raise the debt ceiling – the legislation needed 60 votes to move forward in the legislative process

Republicans said they would vote for a ‘clean’ funding package that didn’t have a provision to raise the borrowing limit.

McConnell on Monday argued instead for a ‘clean CR’ – a continuing resolution to fund the government without the debt provision. 

We ‘have a clean CR that could pass today,’ McConnell noted. ‘It would keep the government open.’

Senators were voting on a procedural motion to advance the short term budget to a final vote. Sixty votes were needed to make that happen. Democrats needed the support of 10 Republicans in the 50-50 Senate. 

The vote failed 48 to 50.  Schumer voted ‘no’ as a procedural move so he can change his vote later to bring the legislation back up.   

The House passed the government funding measure last week. It extends government funding through December 3 and suspends the debt limit through December 16, 2022. It also includes $28.6 billion for natural disaster recovery and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees. 

BIDEN’S $1.1 TRILLION INFRASTRUCTURE BILL

Pelosi  postponed a vote on President Joe Biden’s $1.1 trillion infrastructure package until Thursday as Democrats work to shore up support among moderates for Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget filled with social programs. 

She also announced she would not tie passing the $3.5 trillion bill to passing the infrastructure package – a blow to the progressive wing of the party.

Liberal Democrats in the House threatened not to vote for the infrastructure bill until the Senate passed the social programs. But moderate Democrats in that chamber are unhappy with the $3.5 trillion price tag and are with holding their votes.

Pelosi had told progressives she would not bring up infrastructure without the guarantee on the budget bill but she walked back on that promise Monday night

Liberals are furious – and with holding their votes. 

Progressive leaders on Tuesday said a majority of their 100-member caucus will tank Thursday’s infrastructure vote without the committment on the social programs. Pelosi only has a four seat majority in the House. It has no Republican support.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the furious liberals refusing to support Biden's infrastructure plan without a guarantee the Senate will pass his $3.5 trillion budget

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the furious liberals refusing to support Biden’s infrastructure plan without a guarantee the Senate will pass his $3.5 trillion budget

‘As our members have made clear for three months, the two are integrally tied together, and we will only vote for the infrastructure bill after passing the reconciliation bill,’ Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said in a statement. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of those who is a no vote. 

Asked on Tuesday how she would wrangle progressive votes on infrastructure, Pelosi said: ‘That’s a question that we’ll deal with, but I’m not going to negotiate that right now.’ 

She and her team are working frantically behind the scenes to put together a deal.

BIDEN’S $3.5 TRILLION BUDGET PACKAGE

Biden held meetings with moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema at the White House on Tuesday as he tries to get a committment on his $3.5 trillion budget of social programs, including free pre-K and programs to combat climate change.

Both senators have objected to the high price tag and, in the 50-50 Senate, Democrats need every member of their party’s vote.

However, the two moderates won’t publicly name a price they will support. 

Lawmakers are hoping Biden can get a verbal committment from the two senators by Thursday, freeing up progressives to vote for his infrastructure bill.

Pelosi put the onus on the president.

‘Negotiations are being led by President Biden to advance his vision,’ she told her Democratic lawmakers in a letter on Tuesday.

Manchin said his meeting with Biden was ‘good, honest, straightforward negotiations’ but no commitments were made. 

He said he met with Biden for over an hour.  

Sinema refused to tell reporters on Capitol Hill what she spoke about with Biden. 

And White House press secretary Jen Psaki also declined to give details.

‘We’re obviously in a very sensitive time right now, in these discussions a pivotal time and these discussions, and I understand the interest but I’m going to try not to say anything that gets me fired today,’ she said Tuesday in her press briefing.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema met with Biden at the White House on Tuesday to discuss her concerns on his $3.5 trillion budget

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema met with Biden at the White House on Tuesday to discuss her concerns on his $3.5 trillion budget

Her fellow moderate senator, Joe Manchin, also met with Biden at the White House as president works to cut a deal

Her fellow moderate senator, Joe Manchin, also met with Biden at the White House as president works to cut a deal

Biden said on Monday that ‘victory’ is at stake ahead of this week’s votes in the Capitol. 

‘Victory is what’s at stake,’ Biden said. 

And the president conceded it may all not be done this week. 

‘It may not be by the end of the week. I hope it’s by the end of the week. But as long as we’re still alive,’ he noted, ‘we got three things to do: the debt ceiling, the continuing resolution, and the two pieces of legislation. If we do that, the country is going to be in great shape.’   

The House Budget Committee passed their version of the $3.5 trillion budget package on Saturday. The intention was to prove to progressives that leadership was serious about moving it along with the infrastructure bill to reassure them it won’t be left behind due to moderate demands.

The move didn’t work.   

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