Republicans’ Debt Ceiling Strategy: Force Democrats to Take ‘Tough Votes’

From left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speak to reporters ahead of a test vote scheduled by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on the bipartisan infrastructure deal senators brokered with President Joe Biden, in Washington, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Republicans …
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Democrats may have to take some tough votes on raising the debt ceiling, Senate Republicans told reporters Tuesday.

With the debt ceiling needing to be raised by October 18, Democrats will potentially need to use reconciliation to raise the amount of money the U.S. government can borrow. The process of reconciliation would force Democrats to “take some tough votes” that may impact the 2022 midterm election.

“I mean, I’m not going to be a complete asshole about it. But I’m going to make them take some tough votes,” Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is the ranking member on the Senate Committee on the Budget, said of the Republicans’ strategy.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) reiterated the gauntlet Senate Republicans have laid for Democrats. “I’ve been here a while. I think the Democrats can pass it through reconciliation without any problem. They had to put a number on it, which we think they ought to put a number on it and let the American people see,” he said.

“They don’t want to put a number on it, but they might have to,” Shelby added. “First of all, I don’t think the Treasury is up against the window yet. I don’t know how long they have, they might have a month. It’s like the sky is falling.”

Republicans want to force Democrats to “pick a number” for just how much the debt ceiling should be raised. “That would mean using the complex tool of budget reconciliation, rather than a stand-alone vote to suspend the debt cap through the midterms,” Politico reported.

Democrats forced to vote on a specific dollar figure would create an opportunity for Republicans to highlight Democrats’ fiscal irresponsibility during the 2022 midterms.

The lengths to which Republicans must go to implement this long-term strategy begins Wednesday with the Senate vote to raise the debt ceiling. The measure has little chance of success because Democrats will likely be short ten Republican votes.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it clear he believes it is the Democrats’ responsibility to run the Democrat-controlled government. And that means allowing Democrats to manage the debt ceiling increase themselves.

If the vote fails, Democrats will seemingly only have one option left to raise the debt limit: reconciliation and tough votes that will likely impact the 2022 midterms.

In a move of desperation, President Biden said Tuesday he is open to Senate Democrats doing away with the 60 vote filibuster threshold to raise the debt ceiling. Biden called the workaround “a real possibility.”

But plenty of Senators oppose Biden’s Hail Mary. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have said they would not support taking rights away from the minority party. Other Democrats, too, oppose the idea.

“We need 10 of them, they need 50 of us. The path to cloture is so much simpler. It requires less people, and less time. To me, the path forward is to find 10 people [Republicans] who are for cloture but against final passage,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a radical democrat.

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø

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