Oct 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McConnell’s done dealing

Photo of Mitch McConnell walking the halls of the Capitol with one hand in his pocket

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks to a meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a point of trying to spin the narrative to his party's favor, telling President Biden via letter that Republicans will not assist again if Democrats "drift into another avoidable crisis."

Why it matters: For months, McConnell refused to budge over his insistence that Democrats suspend the debt limit through the budget reconciliation process. Crisis was averted Thursday night after McConnell struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to raise the debt ceiling, and nailed down enough GOP senators to pass the agreement.

  • Yes, but: Multiple Senate Republicans were so frustrated by the compromise that they not only refused to support the vote but also threatened to prevent it from happening via a simple majority, Axios' Alayna Treene writes.

Context: Failing to raise the debt ceiling by the deadline would have paused paychecks to federal workers, Medicare benefits, military salaries, tax refunds, Social Security checks and more, Axios reported.

  • The U.S. has never defaulted on its financial obligations, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned that doing so would bring permanent damage to the country's economy.

What he's saying: "Last night, Republicans filled the leadership vacuum that has troubled the Senate since January," he wrote in a letter to Biden on Friday.

  • "The Senate Democratic Leader had three months' notice to handle one of his most basic governing duties," McConnell said. "Embarrassingly, it got to the point where Senators on both sides were pleading for leadership to fill the void and protect our citizens. I stepped up."
  • "[I]n light of Senator Schumer's hysterics and my grave concerns about the ways that another vast, reckless, partisan spending bill would hurt Americans and help China, I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement."

The big picture: McConnell's letter comes as Democrats are already previewing how they'll use the messaging in future legislative battles.

  • "McConnell caved," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told reporters. "And now we're going to spend our time doing child care, health care and fighting climate change."
  • Meanwhile, Republicans have not kept quiet about their frustrations, also accusing McConnell of caving in. "Why the hell would I make it easier for them to raise the debt ceiling through regular order? We had a strategy and we abandoned it," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN's Manu Raju.

What to watch: The Senate will have to address this fiscal cliff again come December.

Go deeper: No one likes the debt deal

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