Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has never been known as one of the brightest bulbs in the room. He proved it once again on Thursday night when he took off on an epic partisan rant against Republicans who had just thrown him a lifeline on extending the debt limit by agreeing to a short-term increase.
Schumer accused the GOP of playing a “dangerous and risky partisan game,” claiming that Democrats were able to “pull our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.”
Schumer tried to lay the entire blame for the debt ceiling increase debacle at the feet of his nemesis. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell enraged Republicans and cut the legs from underneath his Democratic colleague Senator Joe Manchin, whose efforts to lower the temperature in the Senate were blown up by Schumer’s ridiculous partisanship.
Instead of hailing the agreement as a sign that the two parties could work together, Schumer set off a bomb that had immediate blowback.
A miffed McConnell sent a letter to Joe Biden telling him in no uncertain terms that there will be no GOP bailout next time on the debt limit. When another increase is needed in December, McConnell has pledged not to lift a finger to cover the posterior of Biden and the Democrats.
“Last night, Republicans filled the leadership vacuum that has troubled the Senate since January. I write to inform you that I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis,” McConnell wrote in the letter to Biden.
McConnell told Biden that Schumer’s rant had “poisoned the well” and he could expect no more assistance from Republicans on the debt limit.
Senator Joe Manchin was absolutely livid, according to Punchbowl.
Manchin told Schumer the speech was “fu**ing stupid,” according to four sources. Then Manchin complained to reporters too. The incident doesn’t really signify anything, except to show how tense everyone is in the Senate these days. And it’s only going to get worse.
What forced McConnell’s hand this time around was the possibility that Democrats would initiate a “carve-out” for a filibuster exception that would allow them to raise the debt limit without GOP support. Also, McConnell realized that there was a real danger that Democrats didn’t have enough time to employ the complicated reconciliation process before the debt limit expired on October 18.
But neither issue should come into play in December. Democrats will have plenty of time to use reconciliation to bring the debt limit increase to the floor and pass it — without Republican support.
McConnell’s letter is a warning to Democrats, but also gives an early signal to his own members that he won’t give Democrats the same offramp in December. The decision by McConnell this week to open the door to a short-term debt extension earned him an unusually intense level of criticism from the Senate GOP caucus, including behind-the-scenes breaks with members of his own leadership team.
It also set off an hours-long, down-to-the-wire effort to lock down the 10 GOP votes that would be needed to help advance the debt ceiling extension, after conservatives including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) insisted on it needing to overcome the 60-vote procedural hurdle.
McConnell had to twist a few GOP arms to get the 10 votes to bring the debt limit increase to the floor. But what concerned most of those GOP members was Donald Trump’s opposition to increasing the debt limit. Very few of them wanted to go against the former president and become a target for his criticism.
But McConnell never had any intention of helping the Democrats raise the debt limit in December. By the time the limit is reached, Democrats will have prepared their budget reconciliation bill costing between $1.8 and $2.2 trillion. Schumer’s argument this time around that they don’t have time to prepare a reconciliation bill is a nonstarter.
In December, the vote to raise the debt limit will be along party lines and be part of the Democrats’ reconciliation package — just as McConnell intended.