As the U.S. Hurtles Toward a Debt Crisis, What Does McConnell Want?

by 24USATVOct. 5, 2021, 4 p.m. 22
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The 2006 showdown has been used by both parties as an object lesson. Mr. McConnell has pointed to it to show that partisanship is nothing new; among the “no” votes on the debt ceiling increase that year were Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Barack Obama. Democrats point to what they say is the more obvious lesson: They let the vote go through on a narrow majority, with no filibuster.

The same can be said for partisan debt ceiling increases passed in May 2003 and November 2004, which, like the 2006 vote, were set up by a procedural maneuver that required the consent of every Democrat who then voted against them.

This year was different: Republicans filibustered one measure to raise the debt limit and keep the government funded. On Wednesday, they are expected to block another measure, passed by the House, that does only one thing: lift the debt ceiling.

“There’s no bargaining,” said Senator Angus King of Maine, a moderate independent. “They’re just stamping their feet and saying no.”

He added, “It’s a qualitatively new level of irresponsibility.”

With no overt policy demands to be met as the price for cooperation, Democrats say the chaos is the point — or at least a vague hope that the latest legislative crisis will somehow undermine their ability to fulfill unrelated parts of Mr. Biden’s agenda, especially an expansive bill to combat climate change and reweave the fraying social safety net.

“Democrats are preparing another staggering taxing and spending spree without any Republican input or support,” Mr. McConnell wrote on Monday. “Bipartisanship is not a light switch that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer may flip on to borrow money and flip off to spend it.”

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