Schumer’s statement was to the point, and included some evidence of sleep deprivation:
.@SenSchumer: "I have some good news…We have reached agreement to extend the debt ceiling through early December, and it's our hope that we can get this done as soon as today." pic.twitter.com/it4ClRSvPX
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 7, 2021
McConnell’s statement was punchier:
.@LeaderMcConnell: "Republican and Democratic members and staff negotiated through the night in good faith. The Senate is moving toward the plan I laid out yesterday to spare the American people a manufactured crisis." pic.twitter.com/rZFv902JHD
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 7, 2021
The ceiling will be raised by $480 billion to account for debt incurred between now and December, when we’ll be at risk of hitting the limit again. In America 2021, half a trillion dollars is just a few months’ worth of borrowing to keep the lights on.
Phil Klein wonders: What was the Democratic strategy in this standoff, exactly? If they held fast by refusing to raise the ceiling via reconciliation, how did they imagine the politics shaking out if the U.S. ended up stumbling into a default?
Playing out the scenario, let’s say nobody blinks, Treasury runs out of options, and there is some sort of partial default on debt payments. Why would Democrats believe that it would help them politically? Sure, they have friends in the media who would amplify the argument that it’s all the Republicans’ fault. But there’s no reason to believe that voters would actually punish Republicans and reward Democrats as the more responsible party…
Democrats are coming off a victory that has given them unified control of government. They can raise the debt limit without a single Republican vote without giving in to any demands and without abandoning any part of their agenda. If the U.S. does actually default, the crisis would have gone far beyond where it was a decade ago, when the parties ultimately cut a deal to raise the debt limit.
Furthermore, this standoff is happening during a time in his presidency at which Biden has already lost the public’s confidence due to his handling of Afghanistan, the border crisis, COVID-19, and a host of other issues.
Biden can’t really believe this sort of scolding would successfully shift blame to the other party when his own party has the power to raise the ceiling without Republican help:
President Biden calls Republican senators “not only hypocritical but dangerous and a bit disgraceful” on debt limit.
“My Republican friends need to stop playing Russian roulette with the U.S. economy … just get out of the way.” pic.twitter.com/qcZuQWKfM3
— The Recount (@therecount) October 6, 2021
The state of the economy is one of the strongest predictors of a president’s odds of being reelected. A default would have caused the economy to crater and forced Biden to manage the fallout for another three-plus years. Good luck in 2024 trying to convince swing voters that their misery was actually Republicans’ fault.
A new Morning Consult poll backs Klein up in his suspicion. Voters would blame Democrats for a default more than they would Republicans, although the gap has shrunk a bit over the past few weeks:
So much for Schumer’s strategic illogic. What was McConnell’s strategy, though? If he stood firm on not allowing Dems to raise the ceiling through regular order, and if Schumer stood firm on not using reconciliation, Senate Dems would have been forced into choosing between a default and making an exception to the filibuster to let the ceiling be raised by a simple majority vote. As stalwart as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have been in resisting attempts to mess with the filibuster, I’m guessing that an easily avoidable global economic calamity finally would have forced their hands. McConnell seems to have worried about that too, per Politico. Their theory is that he feared Manchinema would ultimately bend on the filibuster and he scrambled to avert that:
Our friend Manu Raju at CNN reported, “McConnell told his colleagues he’s concerned about pressure on [JOE] MANCHIN and [KYRSTEN] SINEMA to gut [the] filibuster in order to raise [the] debt ceiling, I’m told. He pointed to this as reason why he is floating short-term increase in order to ease pressure on and push Democrats to use reconciliation.”…
Democratic supporters of filibuster reform have taken note of how the issue seems to have moved McConnell. “The filibuster is McConnell’s instrument of obstruction,” one Democratic senator told Playbook. “He wants to protect that at all costs. He was at real risk of overplaying his hand as he faced the growing prospect that we would have 51 votes to waive it for the purpose of dealing with debt. He wanted to avoid creating that precedent. Still, would have been better for us to just do it.”
Senate Dems made noise after Tuesday’s caucus meeting about changing the filibuster if necessary to avert a default, apparently getting McConnell’s attention. He reportedly called Manchin and Sinema to inform them personally of his offer to raise the ceiling short-term in order to avert a crisis, hoping that that would talk them off the ledge of filibuster reform just in case they were inching out onto it privately.
We’re left to wonder why they don’t flirt with ending the filibuster more frequently, knowing how conciliatory McConnell becomes when that subject is broached. Maybe we’ll see them do it in late November when the next completely needless crisis approaches.
Today’s deal amounts to a punt for both sides but Schumer’s and McConnell’s respective enemies are eager to accuse them of having lost. Case in point:
Like clockwork pic.twitter.com/hr8kNriyjk
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) October 6, 2021
I’d bet good money that Trump can’t even coherently explain what the standoff over the debt ceiling is about, specifically why McConnell is eager for Dems to take full ownership via reconciliation. But for argument’s sake, let’s say he believes McConnell failed on the merits and isn’t just dunking on him opportunistically because he bears Mitch an eternal grudge for not supporting his “rigged election” nonsense. What would a Republican “win” have looked like here according to Trump? If Schumer refused to use reconciliation to raise the ceiling, what outcome would have been good for the GOP? Manchinema tactically nuking the filibuster or a default catastrophe for the global economy?