- Former Pres. Donald Trump urged Sen. McConnell on Tuesday to “use the debt ceiling” to block Biden’s agenda.
- Congress has until December 15 to raise the limit and keep the US from defaulting on its debt.
- Using the ceiling as a political weapon risks unprecedented economic catastrophe.
Former President Donald Trump wants Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to use the debt ceiling to “kill” the Biden administration’s spending agenda. The only snag: it risks utter economic catastrophe.
Lawmakers have until December 15 to either raise or suspend the limit on how much the government can borrow. The debt ceiling has loomed over Congress since early October when McConnell offered Democrats a two-month extension to the deadline. With the limit fast approaching, Democrats and the GOP are once again sparring over who will keep the US from defaulting on its debt.
Trump called on the minority leader in a Tuesday statement to hold his ground on the issue. Giving Democrats the two-month extension allowed the party to “get their act together” and pass their $1 trillion infrastructure bill, Trump said. McConnell should now leverage the debt ceiling to inflict pain on Democrats and endanger the passage of Biden’s social spending package that includes childcare assistance, lower drug prices, and universal pre-K, the former president added.
“Old Crow Mitch McConnell … must be fully prepared to use the DEBT CEILING in order to totally kill the Democrat’s new Social Spending (Wasting!) Bill, which will change our Country forever,” Trump said. “Use the Debt Ceiling, Mitch, show strength and courage.”
Using the debt ceiling as a political weapon, however, could well endanger the still-recovering economy. If the ceiling isn’t lifted ahead of the deadline, the government could default on its multitrillion-dollar debt pile. Payments to federal workers and service members would freeze, as would Social Security benefits. Borrowing costs would skyrocket as the world loses faith in the US dollar’s worth.
In the words of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday, failing to pay the government’s bills “will eviscerate our current recovery.” She said it was possible that the US may run out of cash shortly after Dec. 15 once the Treasury moves cash into the Highway Trust Fund — an assessment that shared by the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan scorekeeper on Capitol Hill.
Republicans flirted with economic disaster earlier this year. The party’s lawmakers had demanded Democrats raise the limit on their own through reconciliation. Democrats, however, maintain the effort should be bipartisan just as it has been the 79 times the ceiling was raised over the last six decades. Some Senate Democrats have expressed openness to reconciliation, but others oppose the complex process on the grounds that it would take too long.
McConnell expressed in October that the GOP wouldn’t offer Democrats another extension in December, but his latest comments both parties are eyeing an escape hatch to avert a perilous showdown between both parties. The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday he and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are having “useful discussions” about raising the limit, and that the country “will not default.”
The former president, then, might not get his way. That could spare the US economy a world of hurt.