Democrats Scoff At Republican Insistence That Poison Pill Debt Limit Bill Is Good-Faith Negotiation

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Sen. Jeff Markley (D-OR), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (C) and Sen. Mazie Hirno (D-HI) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Senate Democrats physically couldn’t contain themselves Thursday when TPM asked about the Republican insistence that their bill to extend the debt ceiling — which also repeals huge swaths of the Inflation Reduction Act, adds onerous work requirements to benefit programs and slashes agency power — is a good faith effort to negotiate. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) snorted. 

“That’s exactly what I would expect them to say,” she said, chuckling. “And they are wrong.” 

“Ha!” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) exclaimed derisively. “The next step should be for the Republicans who voted for this thing to explain to the American public exactly what they’re going to do to them.” 

House Republicans passed the bill by an achingly thin margin Wednesday evening after hours of intensive whipping and cajoling by party leadership. Undecided Republicans and fast food streamed in and out of the speakership suite for hours. 

“The sad part here is now the Democrats need to do their job,” McCarthy crowed at a press conference minutes after the bill passed. “The President can no longer ignore by not negotiating.” 

Republicans are painting the bill, which is stuffed with obvious non-starters for Democrats, as a legitimate opening bid. In reality, the bill is little more than a prop, a way to make it easier for McCarthy to claim that Republicans — the only party contemplating not lifting the debt ceiling and letting the economy collapse — are being responsible negotiators, and that Democrats are being unforgivably reckless by refusing to come to the table. 

As Democrats emphasized Thursday, they’re all for extending or lifting the debt ceiling — but they’re not going to pretend that the GOP dream bill that passed Wednesday is a legitimate first step. 

“Destroying our clean energy future is not a good faith opening bid by the Republican Party — so they’re clearly not serious,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), a climate hawk, told TPM. “The document which they produced yesterday is nothing more than an ideological statement of opposition to the clean energy future of our country.” 

Like Markey, other Democrats were clearly most sore about the pieces of the Republican bill that would drive right at the heart of their most prized priorities. 

“McCarthy was offering the country yesterday a choice between slashing massively programs that are important to families or, in effect, the agony of default,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told TPM, adding: “This is a complete nonstarter, DOA.” 

“I’m not gonna balance our budget on the backs of our veterans, on our seniors, on our kids,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) added. 

Democrats have been insisting for months that the debt limit be lifted or extended, and then there can be a healthy debate on spending cuts and budgetary priorities. But since 2011, when Republicans realized they could extract political concessions that they’d never be able to pull off through regular order, GOP lawmakers have been eager to use the debt ceiling as particularly evocative leverage. 

“We ought to have a robust debate about the budget and the place to have a debate about the budget is within the budget process,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) said.

“This hostage taking is unacceptable,” he added. “And it’s a dangerous game.”

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