Several Republicans ripped into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after he agreed to a two-month extension on raising the debt ceiling, giving Democrats a victory and window into passing trillions of dollars in new federal spending the party and President Joe Biden seek.
The measure passed the evenly divided Senate, with 11 Republicans voting with all Democrats to advance the bill after they took a compromise deal offered by McConnell 11 days before the country potentially would have defaulted, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Most Republicans were opposed to increasing the debt ceiling, generally speaking, said McConnell, but they would let Democrats pass a short-term extension using regular order so as to prevent a default.
“We have already made it clear we would assist in expediting the 304 reconciliation process for stand-alone debt-limit legislation,” McConnell said.
“To protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis, we will also allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December,” he said.
The chamber then voted 50-48 to pass the measure, allowing the debt ceiling to be raised by $480 billion through to early December.
But Republicans, including some who are allies of the minority leader, faulted the minority leader for giving in after he had said for months that the GOP would force Democrats to use budget reconciliation, a lengthy process that requires many votes and can only be utilized a couple of times per session, to pass an extension.
“I don’t want any Republican fingerprints on raising the debt limit,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told talk radio host Sean Hannity Thursday on his program in an interview joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
“The road to socialism goes through the debt,” Graham continued, adding that the party “folded like a cheap suit here in the 11th hour” under pressure from Democrats.
Cruz, meanwhile, called it a “lousy deal” and a “mistake” for McConnell and the party to have made.
“Our leadership got cold feet, they got weak-kneed because they were afraid that Manchin and Sinema would agree to nuke the filibuster, which is what has been threatened over and over and over again,” he told Hannity.
He went on to speculate that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was “doing a victory dance” and “crowing” after Republicans “completely surrendered.”
“Because yesterday Republican leadership blinked and gave in, we’ve now divided Republicans and created a mess and handed Schumer a victory,” Cruz added.
Later on Hannity’s Fox News program, Graham continued to criticize the deal.
“For two months, we promised our base and the American people that we would not help the Democratic Party raise the debt ceiling so they could spend $3.5 to $5 trillion through reconciliation. At the end of the day, we blinked,” he said.
“Two things have happened. We’ve let our people down, and we’ve made the Democrats believe we’re all talk and no action,” Graham added.
Republicans who voted with McConnell as well were Sens. John Cornyn, Lisa Murkowski, John Thune, Susan Collins, Rob Portman, Richard Shelby, John Barrasso, Shelley Moore Capito, Mike Rounds, and Roy Blunt.
Schumer had already scheduled a debt ceiling vote for this week but it was certain to have been filibustered by Republicans until McConnell offered the deal.
Yellen warned last week that unless Congress raised the debt limit, the U.S. would default and the economic fallout would be catastrophic.
“It would be catastrophic to not raise the government’s bills, for us to be in a position where we lacked the resources to pay the government’s bills,” she said. “I fully expect it could cause a recession as well.”
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