Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has done it again. After weeks of insisting that he and his fellow Senate Republicans would not vote with Democrats to raise the debt limit under any circumstances, it appears as though that exact scenario has taken place. As many have pointed out, allowing the United States to default on its debts would have resulted in a fiscal apocalypse, and the House will take up a bill just days before the debt ceiling deadline is expected to land. Though McConnell claims this short-term deal will avoid catastrophe and force Democrats to begin planning for a more expansive debt limit increase requiring a reconciliation bill, historical precedent does not lend any credence to the Senate GOP leader’s words.
According to reports, McConnell’s last-minute shift towards cooperation with Senate Democrats stemmed from renewed promises on the opposition’s side to abolish the filibuster. Other outlets reported that McConnell had held various phone calls with Senators Kristen Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Wednesday. These reports suggested the Minority Leader might have shifted his stance on the debt ceiling soon after Joe Manchin publically announced he did not support any attempts to abolish the filibuster to bypass Republicans.
Countless Republicans are now calling into question McConnell’s integrity and responsibility as leader. Three times now, McConnell has gone back on promises to oppose raising the debt ceiling altogether. Once in 2011, again in 2014, and once more now in 2021. In 2011, then-Speaker Harry Reid and McConnell privately agreed the United States could not default on its debts. Still, McConnell publicly put up an image of a fight despite pushing back on any Republicans who suggested using the debt limit as a bargaining chip for fiscal reforms. His many public appearances and statements around that time gave off the image of a stalwart fiscal conservative unwilling to bend to the demands of Democrats.
In 2014, the Kentucky senator employed the exact same strategy when negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans on a debt limit increase fell through. Rather than stick with his vocal goal of forcing Democrats to take the blame for the failed negotiations, McConnell went back on his word from months earlier and voted alongside Democrats for a “clean” debt-ceiling increase more than two weeks before the deadline. Today, after so many back and forths from the controversial senator, the act has honestly gotten old.
The phrase “say one thing, do another” could best describe McConnell’s grand strategy regarding the debt limit. He has gained a reputation for being a secretive lawmaker who prefers to sort out party issues behind closed doors, though it appears congressional Republicans have grown tired of the play-acting and repeated acquiescence to Democratic demands in critical times.
After the latest antics going on this past week, Ted Cruz (R-TX) publicly condemned McConnell on the Senate floor, insisting that working with Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was a “strategic mistake by our leadership.” Cruz also pointed out that Democrats’ insistence that there wasn’t enough time for them to raise the debt limit themselves was a lie, after months of extravagant spending and even more having been planned since the start of the new congressional term. Now that McConnell has once again sworn the GOP will offer no legislative help to Democrats when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling in December, will anyone even take him seriously after so many broken promises?
~ Read more from Jose Backer.