Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond on Sunday took aim at Republicans’ brinksmanship on the debt ceiling after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last week that the Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by October 18.”
Last week, the Senate passed the continuing resolution that keeps the government funded until December 3. The standalone continuing resolution came after Senate Republicans put up a fight over Democrats’ move to link government funding with suspension of the debt ceiling through the midterms next year. Republicans have repeatedly argued that Democrats should raise the debt ceiling on their own, despite bipartisan support for suspending the debt ceiling three times under the Trump administration. Although the House last week passed the bill that suspends the debt ceiling, it is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate.
Asked on CNN about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Pelosi saying that they won’t comply with Republicans’ demand that Democrats raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation, Durbin took aim at Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for “playing games with a loaded weapon.”
“He has demanded that the filibuster be applied to the debt ceiling. It may be the first time in history that that’s happened,” Durbin said. “And we have been warned by not only the Treasury secretary, but by all of the financiers across America, this would be deadly to our economy. It would cost us six million jobs.”
Durbin then pointed to McConnell shutting down Schumer’s attempt to let Democrats raise the debt ceiling on their own by asking for unanimous consent. If Republicans had agreed, Democrats could suspend the limit with a simple majority, but McConnell immediately objected.
“McConnell says, no, I want to play this game out. Well, he’s doing it at the expense of this economy,” Durbin said. “We’re going to get this done. And we’re going to do it in a responsible way and face this as soon as we return next week.”
Pressed on whether he can guarantee that the country won’t default on its debt on October 18, Durbin once again jabbed Republicans’ refusal to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling.
“To say the Democrats are in charge of the Senate is to ignore it’s a 50/50 Senate and we need 60 votes if McConnell insists on a filibuster on the debt ceiling,” Durbin said.
Durbin said he believes McConnell will “come to his senses.”
“I hope he will, if he will listen to the people back home and around this nation, who warn him of the dire consequences of this strategy,” Durbin said.
“The future of our economy is at stake here. And if he thinks he’s going to score political points by defaulting on America’s debt for the first time in history, Senator McConnell is wrong,” Durbin continued.
Last week, Durbin told reporters that using reconciliation to address the issue is a “nonstarter,” according to CNN. He refuted the notion from Senate Republican leaders that Democrats could swiftly raise the debt limit on their own through reconciliation. Durbin estimated that in reality, going that route would actually take three to four weeks in the House and Senate.
Richmond offered a similar take during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Asked when the Biden administration is hoping to raise the debt ceiling, Richmond replied that lawmakers will “keep our head down” and continue to work on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package.
Richmond, however, wondered aloud why Republicans make Democrats “go at everything alone.”
“We had to do an American Rescue Plan alone, which created more jobs than any administration in our history, which has increased economic growth better than anybody in the last four years,” Richmond said.
Richmond argued that Democrats are forced to “be the mature party” so that the country doesn’t experience its first-ever default on the federal debt.
” We’re going to have to be the mature party, responsible party to keep us from going off of the debt cliff and ruining the economy and knocking everybody’s retirement down, raising the cost of cause and interest and all of those things,” Richmond said. “Why do we have to keep going at it alone? But the good news is we do have a united Democratic Party. We’re always going to put people and purpose first, not politics, and we’re going to get it done.”