The House of Representatives has voted to extend the federal debt ceiling until early December, staving off a precarious financial default that could have had severe consequences for the U.S. economy. The legislation passed along party lines with a tally of 219–206 and will likely be signed into law by President Joe Biden Oct. 13.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned that if the debt ceiling were not raised, the United States would have defaulted on its financial obligations sometime around October 18. By extending the limit an additional $480 billion, disaster is averted for now, but as is the nature of Swamp politics, nothing is for free.
No Escape from Looming Crisis
While Democrats may be patting themselves on the back for avoiding imminent disaster one more time, it is worth remembering that it was not their party leadership that offered the lifeline. Instead, the possibility of the extension came solely from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who – along with ten fellow Republicans – voted alongside Dems to overcome a 60-vote filibuster.
That the House even had the option to vote on a deal was made possible by action in the Senate. A week earlier, Senate Republicans offered a lifeline in the name of bipartisanship. Without the efforts of McConnell to assist Senate Democrats, there would have been no debt ceiling vote in the House of Representatives. With the House voting along party lines, the mechanics of the Senate have become the pivotal point around which the ability of America to pay its debts revolves.
President Biden was quick to claim credit, saying that the Senate vote was an example of bipartisanship. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) went further and attacked the Republicans for putting his party in such a position. This lambasting, however, may have done more harm to his own party, as Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was filmed holding his head in his hands as Schumer orated on the Senate floor. According to multiple sources, Manchin described Schumer’s speech as “f—ing stupid.”
McConnell appears to be well aware of the fine line he is treading by dealing with the Democrats. It seems the GOP plan is to have the governing party spend its limited number of reconciliation procedures on sorting out the debt limit and the budget, leaving it high and dry when it comes to Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure package. With no more reconciliations, the multi-trillion dollar legislation would require 60 votes to pass, and therefore, significant Republican support.
“I write to inform you that I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis,” McConnell wrote in a strongly worded letter to President Biden after helping the Dems. He continued:
“I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement. 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.”
With just seven weeks to go until Congress needs to have a deal in place or be back in the same position of a debt default, every D.C. machination will be tried and tested. As rules stand at present, it seems the only way to ensure Democrats get both a debt limit increase and their $3.5 trillion human infrastructure spending is to eliminate the filibuster. That, however, would require the support of Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Sinema was recently hounded by leftist activists in a public bathroom and on a flight, berating her to support Joe Biden’s agenda. Biden responded that this targeted harassment was simply “part of the process.” For Manchin, his recent criticism of Schumer’s speech and his long-held position that he would not support wholly partisan legislation suggests he will not make sacrifices for simple party power plays.
Democrats may well claim victory today. But with a looming deadline and waning support from centrist party members, no actual problem has been solved. Burning bridges and alienating your core team is not the way to ensure a successful future. It’s almost as if the party does not believe it will be in power for too much longer, and, like a desperate gambler, is just trying to win one more spin of the wheel, or roll of the dice, before the edifice of debt and deceit comes crashing down.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.