OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears to have made a deal with his counterpart, Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), on a two-month extension of the debt ceiling after claiming for months that majority Democrats would have to use the lengthy reconciliation process to pass an extension on their own.
“It would have been a disaster if this did not happen, and I’m glad that Mitch McConnell finally conceded the point that we have to pay our debts incurred under Trump,” said Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats. “And let’s get this done as quickly as possible.”
He added: “There’s not going to be reconciliation.”
Throughout the summer, McConnell insisted that Democrats would have to extend the debt limit on their own using reconciliation, which involves several votes and can take as long as two weeks.
But late Wednesday, out of the blue, McConnell indicated that he would agree to a short-term extension ahead of an Oct. 18 deadline when the government may have defaulted on its obligations.
Earlier this week, McConnell sent a letter to Biden telling him he would have to marshal Democrats and convince them to pass the increase via reconciliation.
“I respectfully submit that it is time for you to engage directly with congressional Democrats on this matter,” McConnell wrote, according to Politico, which obtained a copy of the letter. “Your lieutenants in Congress must understand that you do not want your unified Democratic government to sleepwalk toward an avoidable catastrophe when they have had nearly three months’ notice to do their job.”
McConnell’s letter also reminded the president of his past opposition to increasing the debt limit when he was a U.S. senator and then in the minority.
“The president’s party had to take responsibility for a policy agenda which you opposed. Your view then is our view now,” McConnell wrote.
Meanwhile, some Democrats seem to gloat over McConnell’s decision to deal. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth was among several Democrats who said McConnell’s offer was a “fold” on the part of Senate Republicans.
“It’s great that he’s folded, and we’re going to move our agenda, and we’re going to take care of the debt ceiling, and then we’re going to go on and pass infrastructure,” she told reporters.
Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who previously dismissed McConnell’s offer as a “terrible idea,” said using the reconciliation process debt limit would set a “horrendous” precedent.
“You have to hope that the debt ceiling comes up at a moment when you have a reconciliation available,” Murphy said, noting that there are only a few times when the process can be used under current budget laws.
“The bottom line is Republicans knew they were going to get blamed for this if they didn’t come to the table with a proposal that at least gets us to December. Hopefully, in December, they’ll realize that doing this three months at a time is not in their interest,” he added.
In fact, according to Republicans, Democrats have known for months they had control of the process.
“We’ve had time since July. Chuck Schumer’s known this for a long time. Again they’re, I think, trying to create yet another crisis,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) told Bloomberg’s “Balance of Power” program Wednesday. “This administration and our colleagues on the Democrat side of the aisle love to manage from crisis to crisis to crisis.”
Some conservatives ripped McConnell for giving in to Democrats, even for a few months.
“This is the Democrats’ problem and people like Mitch McConnell need to stop being a hostage to scary government shutdown rhetoric,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his program Wednesday.
“Radical Democrats on Capitol Hill have a brand new hero — with their multi-trillion-dollar socialist agenda now stalled in Congress, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is throwing them a lifeline,” he said.
“In a backroom deal, McConnell agreed to raise the debt ceiling, giving Democrats more time to use a process known as “reconciliation” to ram through their socialist agenda,” Hannity continued.