Dec 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans' debt-deal divide

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is seen walking away from the chamber on Wednesday.

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Several Republican senators told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during their weekly policy lunch they disagree with the debt-limit deal he cut with Democrats, saying it puts them in a tough spot no matter how they vote, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Some who've been refusing to help Democrats' raise the limit are against the one-time, fast-track procedural bill allowing the Senate to raise the limit with just 51 votes. That said, they support the broader package that includes delaying Medicare sequestration cuts.

  • At the meeting on Tuesday, they expressed frustration McConnell intentionally tied the two together to pressure more Republicans to support it, according to one senator who attended and spoke to Axios on condition of anonymity.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told McConnell either they vote yes and get hit for supporting a debt limit hike, or vote no and get hit for opposing delays to Medicare sequester cuts, the source said.
  • Three sources familiar with the behind-the-scenes conversations confirmed the details.

The big picture: McConnell is expected to get the 10 votes needed to support the one-time process bill.

  • It's unlikely he'll get much more.

What we're hearing: There was a lot of blame-shifting going on during the heated lunch hosted at the National Republican Senatorial Committee's headquarters.

  • McConnell told the room that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer didn’t have the votes to raise the debt limit through the budget reconciliation process, so they had to find a different path.
  • He emphasized that in October, the last time they were forced to address the fiscal cliff, he and the other senators who backed the bill had to essentially "take one for the team."
  • He said they had to swallow that vote thanks to some members objecting to give Democrats unanimous consent to suspend the debt ceiling through a simple majority vote.
  • McConnell insisted that under this week's deal, Republicans will be able to more successfully message against Democrats.
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