After voting for more than $8.5 trillion in spending, Mitch McConnell and his gang don't want to let the government pay interest on their debt.
Senate Republicans are refusing to do anything to raise the limit of the debt they've helped accumulate over the past two decades. Instead, they want Democrats to take a politically tough vote to do so unilaterally, through the budget reconciliation process.
"Democrats want Republicans to help them raise the debt limit so they can keep spending historic sums of money with zero Republican input and zero Republican votes. Imagine a friend tells you he's flying to Las Vegas to blow all his money," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell grumbled in a Monday floor speech.
"Democrats have all the existing tools they need to raise the debt limit on a partisan basis. If they want 50 lock-step Democratic votes to spend trillions and trillions more, they can find 50 Democratic votes to finance it," the Kentucky Republican continued. "If they don't want Republicans' input, they don't need our help."
Similarly, Florida Sen. Rick Scott tweeted on Monday: "Senate Democrats are about to approve $5.5 TRILLION in reckless deficit spending without a single Republican vote. They need to find the courage to raise the debt ceiling the same way - by themselves. We aren't here to bail them out." Scott chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which brands itself as " the only national organization solely devoted to taking back the Republican Senate Majority."
North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer also made the argument last Monday.
"Right now, I don't know a single Republican that would be supportive of a clean raising of the debt ceiling," he told Fox Business. "I would not be at all surprised if Democrats would try to stuff that into their budget reconciliation spending package that only requires a simple majority to pass."
Last month, Utah Sen. Mike Lee said he agreed with McConnell that no Republican should vote to lift the cap. "@LeaderMcConnell is right—no raising the debt ceiling," he tweeted.
The debt ceiling is not the same thing as the national debt — it is just the maximum "total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments," according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Without raising it, the government cannot borrow money to pay for what Congress has already spent.
In 2019, McConnell, Cramer, and dozens of other GOP senators voted for a budget deal that simply suspended the debt limit entirely for the remainder of the Donald Trump administration. That two-year freeze expired July 31, leaving the Treasury scrambling to avoid default.
The national debt stands at about $28.6 trillion. When President Bill Clinton left office in 2001, the nation had a total debt of about $5.6 trillion and an annual budget surplus.
Rather than pay down the debt, McConnell and Senate Republicans pushed through a 2001 tax cut that added more than $1.1 trillion to the deficit. Another $328 billion tax cut in 2003 and more than $2 trillion for President George W. Bush's Iraq War followed soon after.
Nearly $8 trillion more of the national debt was added during the Trump administration. Republicans controlled the Senate that entire time. This included about $1.9 trillion for Trump's 2017 tax legislation — a large tax cut for the very rich and corporations, backed by each of these Republican senators — and more than $3.1 trillion in bipartisan pandemic relief legislation.
In all, McConnell voted for more than a third of the debt accumulated in the past two decades.
Senate Democrats unveiled a $3.5 trillion budget outline on Monday, with no debt limit provisions.
In a statement, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged both parties to raise or suspend the limit immediately.
"The vast majority of the debt subject to the debt limit was accrued prior to the Administration taking office," she noted. "This is a shared responsibility, and I urge Congress to come together on a bipartisan basis as it has in the past to protect the full faith and credit of the United States."
"Failure to meet those obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy and the livelihoods of all Americans," she warned.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.