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McConnell insists he won’t help the Democrats raise the debt ceiling

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McConnell insists he won't help the Democrats raise the debt ceiling

The hammer-headed minority leader in the Senate says he’s not bluffing.
Photo: Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Several metaphors have struggled with several metaphors in attempting to adequately describe the current Washington stalemate on the task of avoiding a catastrophic default on the nation’s national debt. Are Mitch McConnell, his Democratic opponents slowly moving Amish horse-drawn carriages into a collision at the intersection of the road? Two sumo wrestlers are circling one another. Do you see a couple of three-toed slotshs falling in love?

You get the idea. You get the idea. Washington is actually at this point because of the expiration of a 2-year contract, in which both sides refused to play games with impending defaults and government shut downs. Both disasters are now possible: a government shutdown at September 30’s end and a default in October at an unspecified time, according to Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary. Democrats want to include a debt-limiting provision to the Emergency Resolutions Act. This measure is essential to keep the federal government running. Mitch McConnell can swiftly kill them both with a Senate filibuster. He says that this problem is for the Democrats to solve themselves, possibly by adding the debt limit the budget reconciliation bill. This is likely to clear Congress at some point using a strict one vote party line.

Punchbowl News interviewed McConnell today to investigate any weakness in McConnell’s commitment to threatening the stability of the national and global financial system (which would get into great trouble if the current debt ceiling were maintained), and the laconic Kentuckian did his hammer-headed best hard to stay: “That is your problem. I disagree [for a debt limit increase]. This can be said in many different ways.

You see, raising debt ceilings is just as unpopular as necessary. It is in line with republican austerity messages that combine attacks on large-scale socialist spending by Democrats with refusal to fund them. It is not mentioned that Republicans did not care about budget discipline, or the alleged economic-moral dangers of the debt while Trump was in power. Merrick Garland might be able to tell you that Mitch McConnell doesn’t mind hypocrisy.

This leaves Democrats with some difficult choices. McConnell can be called out for his bluff, and you can say goodbye to the combined stopgap measure spending and debt ceiling. If McConnell does not filibuster it, it will likely result in a government shutdown starting October 1. They might have a week to review the debt limit after the end the fiscal year regardless of whether the federal governments are open or closed. Perhaps McConnell will cave and all will be well. Perhaps, at the very last moment or after a filibuster, the Democrats will agree to add a debt limit resolution into their reconciliation legislation. McConnell had suggested this from the beginning. It’s difficult to do at this point. It is unclear that the Reconciliation Act will pass with the time needed to avoid a default due to Democrats still working on it.

This could be used by Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer to get their Democrats to agree to the Reconciliation Act. However, at this point, you would be talking about high-stakes risks to end all high stakes risk. A single bill is all it takes to start a default on debt and implement most of Joe Biden’s agenda. There are no Republican votes to stop them. Mitch McConnell’s leverage through a workaround and debt-containment measures could now shift to any Democrat willing to make the country and party miserable for a concession. Take a stand. It is not an exaggeration that anyone who takes down the current star can lose.

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