The Democrats are desperately trying to beat the clock on several fiscal deadlines and will have absolutely zero assistance from Republicans. They have unveiled a plan to fund the government through the end of December and raise the debt limit. In addition, the Democrats are still wrestling with self-imposed deadlines for their $3.5 trillion budget bill, and the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
The fiscal dominoes will begin to fall on October 1 when government spending authority runs out. Shortly afterward, the Treasury Department says it will be unable to meet our obligations on servicing the debt, leading to default.
Meanwhile, bemused Republicans are sitting back and watching the Democrats tie themselves in knots over their spending bills.
As part of the measure, Democrats included new aid to the hurricane-affected east and gulf coasts as well as new resettlement money for refugees arriving from Afghanistan. White House officials earlier this month requested $14 billion to respond to the disasters and another $6.4 billion for Afghan relocation efforts.
But the future of the measure remains in doubt, since Democrats require Republican votes to advance it in the nearly deadlocked Senate. The prospect of a stalemate that shutters key government agencies and programs only has grown in recent days, since Democrats tacked an additional element onto their continuing resolution — an effort to address the debt ceiling.
Attaching an increase in the debt limit to the budget bill guarantees its failure. All the House and Senate Republicans have said they will not vote for a debt limit bill that’s attached to a government funding measure.
The Democrats have been squirming for weeks, trying to figure out a way to draw in Republican votes to raise the debt limit. They have failed. Democrats will have to advance the plan on the debt limit all by themselves.
The Republicans’ potential blockade has enraged Democrats, who have stressed repeatedly in recent days that the GOP opposition is hypocritical since both parties had banded together to raise the ceiling under President Trump, under whom the country added $7 trillion to the debt. Those debts include stimulus programs enacted on a bipartisan basis last year as well as Trump’s own priorities, such as building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, which Democrats did not support anyway.
This is a mess created by both parties. Raising the debt ceiling has always been an opportunity for one party or the other to posture and bloviate about our embarrassing national debt. And since Democrats happen to be in power when the debt limit is exceeded, it’s up to them to raise it.
The Republicans’ major argument is that they aren’t being consulted on Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spendapalooza that the Democrats are planning to ram down the American people’s throats via the reconciliation process. So why should the GOP give the Democrats any political cover on raising the debt limit?
It’s an argument that Democrats have no answer for.
The Democrats have another option beyond attaching the debt limit increase to the temporary spending bill. They could include it in that $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
McConnell has called on Democrats to take this route. But some party lawmakers have raised concerns with that idea, fearing it would balloon their bill’s overall price tag at a time when they already are dealing with internal divides over how much to spend in the first place — another set of fights that loom large over the House and Senate as they return to work this week.
House Democrats will have to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill when they vote on it on September 27. That’s a hard deadline agreed to by Pelosi with a group of moderates who want the bill passed before voting on the $3.5 trillion budget bill. The radicals have said they won’t vote for the bipartisan bill unless the reconciliation bill is passed first.
If it sounds like the Democrats’ dreams of passing a gaggle of massive spending bills is going to crash and burn in the next few weeks, there’s a very good chance of that happening.