Leading Senate Republicans lead debt ceiling disinformation campaign as they seek to distort reasons for raising the country’s borrowing ceiling, after lifting their blockade to avoid default on US debt in a bipartisan fashion.
The Senate passed a bill on Thursday allowing the debt ceiling to be raised by $ 480 billion until early December, which the Treasury Department estimates will be enough to allow the government to temporarily avoid a unprecedented default on $ 28 billion in debt securities.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the morning before its passage that he had reached a deal with Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to pave the way for voting on a short-term extension with the support of the GOP.
The move came after McConnell made a tactical retreat to reverse weeks of refusing to allow Democrats to increase the debt ceiling by any measure other than a complicated procedure known as reconciliation that would have required a party line vote.
Republican Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, said on the ground: “Unfortunately, Republicans have blinked.”
And some Republicans denounced what they saw as Schumer’s needlessly triumphalist victory speech after the deal, while West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin put his head in his hands during the speech and then took it. qualified as “inappropriate”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer will hold a vote on Tuesday on the bill passed Thursday night, bringing the House back from recess a week earlier.
But even though McConnell made the deal to stave off the threat of a first default, the resolution to push the issue until December did nothing to address the issue of partisan deadlock and misrepresentation. of the problem by the Republicans.
The argument at the heart of the GOP’s insistence – which is expected to resume in two months – is that Democrats should raise the party line debt ceiling, in part because they claim the debt ceiling loan must be raised to pay for Biden’s economic agenda.
“McConnell told them they were going to have to – if they are determined to spend at least $ 3.5 billion more on borrowed money – raise the debt ceiling to meet that debt on their own,” Republican Senator John Cornyn said of McConnell in a recent news report. conference, referring to the Democrats’ social spending plan.
The Treasury Department recognizes that raising the debt ceiling would allow the United States to continue borrowing to finance projects, such as social spending and Democrats’ infrastructure, which are now expected to cost between 1.9 and 2.2 billions of dollars.
But economists in the department also say attempts to portray the need to tackle the debt ceiling as an effort to pay off Democrats’ budget resolutions that have yet to be passed by Congress constitute disinformation, according to sources familiar with the mechanism.
The criticism comes mainly from the fact that the main reason for raising the debt ceiling stems from the fact that the United States has to borrow new money to pay the principal and interest of about $ 8 billion of debt incurred in the United States. during the Trump administration.
In recent years, the majority of the increase in the national debt has come from Republicans, and the lifting of the debt ceiling simply allows the Treasury Department to pay off existing debts by taking on new debt, the sources said.
Key Senate Republicans’ distortion is emblematic of the party leadership’s approach to once-non-partisan issues, as it seeks to prevent its members from being punished at the polls in 2022 by Red State voters. for raising the debt ceiling.
McConnell had insisted for weeks before giving in on Wednesday that Democrats should tackle the party-line debt ceiling through reconciliation, repeatedly blocking measures that would have forced at least 10 Republicans to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling.
The Republican Minority Leader initially obstructed an interim financing measure that prevented both a government shutdown and default, as well as a stand-alone bill to raise the debt ceiling as he sought to isolate Republicans from a tough vote.
But Democrats have ruled out resorting to reconciliation, concerned about the difficulty of programming and the potential for abuse of the two so-called vote-a-ramas – where Republicans could come up with unlimited amendments and bills on the pill. poisoned – before the October 18 budget deadline.
The prospect of a default in October had catastrophic consequences: Economists predicted an immediate recession, a collapse in financial markets, with trillions wiped out in U.S. household wealth and pushing up unemployment rates.
Republican intransigence for weeks to block any measure that raised the debt ceiling on a bipartisan basis also reflected the hypocrisy of the Republican stance, Democrats said, noting they were helping Republicans tackle the debt without drama during the Trump era.
And it wasn’t until Wednesday when Democrats began asking Schumer to explore the possibility of creating a filibuster exception to pass a stand-alone debt bill that would have reduced Republicans’ power in the Senate. that McConnell accepted a bipartisan proposal.
“The argument made yesterday was that this might be more pressure than two Democratic senators can take to change the obstruction rules,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said of McConnell’s deal to defuse the attempts to even partially abolish the Senate rule.
Joanna Walters contributed reporting