Why Republicans are blocking Democrats from raising the debt ceiling

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President Biden said Monday he can't guarantee that Congress will raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. defaults on its obligations, unleashing a pointless financial crisis, because "that's up to Mitch McConnell." Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) insists that Democrats increase the debt limit themselves, but the Senate GOP is filibustering their every attempt to do that.

"They need to stop playing Russian roulette with the U.S. economy," Biden said Monday. "Republicans just have to let us do our job. Just get out of the way." He called McConnell's strategy "hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful," noting that Democrats voted with Republicans to raise the debt limit three times under former President Donald Trump, even as his spending increases and GOP-only tax cuts incurred $8 trillion in new debt.

So why don't Republicans just not filibuster the bill and let Democrats pass it alone?

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters Monday that 45 Senate Republicans would probably be okay with that, but five or six would insist on a filibuster. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said some of her GOP colleagues would even vote to lift the debt ceiling if the Democrats abandoned their big omnibus package, the centerpiece of Biden's economic agenda.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) probably got closer to the mark, telling CNN's Manu Raju "there's no reason for us to help facilitate bad policy that we disagree with, and so they have to eat up little floor time passing the debt ceiling through reconciliation that's fine with me."

McConnell said Monday he gave Democrats "a roadmap and three months notice" to use the unwieldy budget reconciliation process to raise the debt ceiling with a filibuster-proof 50 votes, and "I suggest that our colleagues get moving." And Democrats can use the reconciliation process, probably, if they start soon enough and Republicans don't block it in the Senate Budget Committee, The Wall Street Journal explains. But it would take a lot of floor time and require Democrats to raise the debt limit by a specific amount, not suspend it until a specific time.

Democrats are loath to waste the time and spook financial markets, but Biden "wasn't ruling out options," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki clarified Monday.

"Unsaid by all sides but worth pointing out," Politico notes: "Having a debt ceiling, which does nothing to accomplish its original goal of limiting government borrowing but which regularly causes American politicians to flirt with economic catastrophe, is dumb."

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