McConnell warns Biden he won’t help in next debt-limit standoff
WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has sent a blistering letter to President Joe Biden informing him that Democrats would have to act on their own and without any help from him the next time the U.S. debt limit has been reached.
In the Friday letter, McConnell pointed out that Senate Republicans had provided enough votes this week to help advance a measure that avoided a default on U.S. debt but added, “I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis.”
The letter was sent a day after the Senate approved legislation that extends the U.S. debt ceiling into early December after weeks of partisan acrimony amid growing alarm over the possibility of a catastrophic default. While no Republicans supported the legislation itself, 11 Republicans including McConnell voted to get the measure onto the Senate floor.
McConnell laid out the points he made in the letter in a telephone conversation with Biden on Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The delay into December will create yet another battle over the debt limit, and it also will come the same time that government funding authority for all federal agencies is set to expire, creating potential for a fiscal “cliff” that could again unnerve financial markets.
On Thursday, McConnell produced Republican enough votes to help ensure the measure moved to final passage, but only after a struggle that transpired even after the debt limit bill was under debate on the Senate floor.
He had insisted for weeks that Democrats use a cumbersome, drawn-out process, known as reconciliation, to raise the debt ceiling, which had been rejected by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer sought a swifter process if Republicans would have simply allowed a vote for Democrats to approve a House-passed debt suspension until December 2022.
McConnell then offered this week a proposal to extend the debt ceiling until a Dec. 3 projected deadline before it would be reached again. That prompted sharp criticism from fellow Republicans like Ted Cruz of Texas, said the minority leader had given away the game — to Schumer.
“Schumer was on the verge of surrender,” Cruz said. “And unfortunately, the deal that was put on the table was a lifeline for Schumer.”
Another critic, former President Donald Trump, accused McConnell of “folding to the Democrats again.”
Some Republican senators echoed the former president’s complaints.
“I don’t understand why we’re folding here,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Thursday, borrowing Trump’s words.
In the letter, McConnell said Schumer engaged in a “bizarre spectacle” on the Senate floor immediately after the debt limit extension passed. He was not more specific about what he meant. Schumer said that Republicans had “played a risky and partisan game” over the debt limit, and insisted the next debt limit increase would have to be bipartisan.
Schumer’s office declined to comment on the letter and referred to his remarks on Thursday night. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement,” McConnell wrote to Biden. “Your lieutenants on Capitol Hill now have the time they claimed they lacked to address the debt ceiling through standalone reconciliation, and all the tools to do it. They cannot invent another crisis and ask for my help.”