It appears that many people were caught off-guard when Mitch McConnell proposed a plan that would help Democrats raise the debt ceiling. Among those was Donald Trump, at least according to Lindsey Graham. During a private lunch meeting yesterday, Graham warned his fellow Republicans that this is an issue the former president “will be engaged on” and Trump will be gunning for anyone that goes along with the scheme and votes for the plan. McConnell has been in Trump’s sights for a while now, so this is just the latest round of fighting between the two. But given how easily Trump backs primary challengers to GOP members who are seen as straying from the path, Republicans in precarious seats will likely be taking this warning to heart. (The Hill)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) offered a forceful warning to Republican colleagues during a private lunch on Wednesday, saying former President Trump will come down hard on any GOP senators who vote for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) deal to set up a special pathway to raise the debt limit.
In blunt remarks to the Senate Republican Conference, Graham harshly criticized McConnell for putting Senate Republicans in position to get “shot in the back” over the deal.
He said McConnell had backed away from his vow earlier this year to not give Democrats any help in raising the debt limit.
Trump issued a statement through his PAC last night blasting McConnell over the plan. He accused Midnight Mitch of “folding on the debt ceiling” and giving Democrats “a total victory.” He also returned to using one of his favorite nicknames for McConnell, calling him “the old crow.”
To be fair, McConnell really brought this on himself. He was one who originally made the claim that since Democrats were spending tons of money by themselves without any GOP support, they would need to take the responsibility to raise the debt limit. And Democrats should (in theory) be able to do it with no Republican support through the reconciliation process. Of course, that means they would have to get both Joe Manchin and Kryrsten Sinema to go along with the plan, and Manchin has already made noises about being squeamish when it comes to further raising the debt.
McConnell’s defense in this matter seems to be accurate, even if he’s essentially basing it on a technicality. His plan doesn’t actually involve having any Republicans voting to raise the debt ceiling. What he’s proposing is a special legislative “pathway” that would allow Chuck Schumer and the Democrats to avoid a filibuster and raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote. Then the Dems could do it without any Republicans having to attach their name to it.
But since this “pathway” is completely outside of the normal Senate rules, any Republican voting in favor of it will, in effect, be voting to raise the debt ceiling. McConnell said earlier this week that he would have as many as 18 members of his caucus voting for the plan, even though he really only needs ten. As of this morning, however, it’s unclear if he’ll even get the ten votes that he needs. The threat of Trump backing a primary opponent will certainly be enough to give anyone up for reelection next year pause.
As sad as it is to say it, I’m pretty sure we all know that the debt ceiling is going to be raised again one way or another. But it would have been nice if McConnell could have come up with some sort of deal that would force some concessions out of Chuck Schumer before Mitch went along with it. While it’s an ugly situation, I really think I have to take Trump’s side on this one. The Senate GOP doesn’t have much in the way of leverage at the moment and the debt ceiling question is one of the few areas where McConnell probably could have gotten Schumer to come to the table and offer a deal. But at the same time, if Trump really does start backing primary challengers, the GOP’s chances of retaking the majority next November will likely be diminished.