After months of refusing to help increase the debt ceiling, McConnell (R-Ky.) offered a short-term solution this week to increase the debt limit enough for the government to continue paying its bills into December. Eleven Republicans voted with Democrats to allow the deal to pass the Senate.
The vote was uncertain until the very last minute, as many Senate Republicans railed against their own leader for negotiating with Democrats and breaking the party line: that Democrats would have to increase the debt limit on their own.
Even former President Donald Trump chimed in, urging Republicans to block the vote.
“Looks like Mitch McConnell is folding to the Democrats, again,” Trump said in a statement through the Save America PAC before the vote. “He’s got all of the cards with the debt ceiling, it’s time to play the hand. Don’t let them destroy our Country!”
But in the end the Senate averted an unprecedented debt default, which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned could create another financial crisis.
“I’m glad their brinksmanship did not work,” Schumer said on the Senate floor after the vote, thanking Democrats for standing united against Republicans’ obstruction. “What is needed now is a long-term solution so we don’t go through this drama every few months.”
Before Thursday, Republicans were steadfast in their refusal to help Democrats increase the debt limit, claiming they didn’t want to give Democrats more room to pass spending bills. The debt limit would have to be raised regardless of Democrats’ future policies.
Republican leadership faced an angry caucus Thursday ahead of the vote.
“I believe it was a mistake to offer this deal,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told reporters. “Two days ago Republicans were unified, we were all on the same page, we were all standing together and making clear that Democrats had complete authority to raise the debt ceiling… Schumer was on the verge of surrender.
“And, unfortunately, the deal that was put on the table was a lifeline for Schumer, when I disagree with that decision,” Cruz said, conceding that Schumer won the game of chicken.
This extension to the debt limit is expected to last through Dec. 3, at which point the Treasury Department will have to again resort to extraordinary measures to borrow money and pay the nation’s bills until Congress raises it once more.
McConnell says Democrats have to figure out a longer-term solution on their own. Specifically, Republicans have said Democrats should push it through the reconciliation process, a budgetary maneuver that allows the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority. That process, however, is procedurally lengthy and gives Republicans plenty of opportunities to score political points.
Democrats accepted McConnell’s short-term proposal very quickly Wednesday, declaring victory. But they made it clear that they would not push a long-term increase to the debt limit through reconciliation, setting up yet another standoff over the debt in just two months.
After all the drama around this vote, it doesn’t look like Republicans will be blinking another time.