Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pronounced that no Republican would cast a vote to increase the debt ceiling. That moved the goal post, because he’s effectively threatening a filibuster if 10 Senate Republicans do not join Democrats to advance the measure. With classic McConnell cynicism, he declared that the government must pay its bills while announcing that Republicans won’t sign the checks. That was the reveal. Not to be outdone, every single House Republican voted against both increasing the debt limit and keeping the government running when funding runs out on Oct. 1.
Just as Republicans have fallen in line with the “big lie” about the 2020 election, undermining confidence in our democracy and its constitutional norms, they are now prepared to set fire to the entire house by tanking our economy. But this despicable move can give Democrats exactly the ammunition they need — a genuine, defensible justification for eliminating the filibuster.
Democrats should call McConnell’s bluff. Kill the filibuster, raise the debt ceiling to pay our bills, fund the U.S. government. And then be free to move on and pass the broader agenda that the majority of voters want.
Republicans falsely claim that the debt ceiling needs to be raised to pay for President Biden’s Build Back Better Act. But as McConnell and his fellow Deadbeats know, the bills to be paid include the bipartisan $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief spending package passed in March and the Trump-era spending spree that racked up a historic $7.8 trillion in debt, including a 2017 tax cut that is projected to add $1.9 trillion in debt. They’re taking a page from the Donald Trump playbook — borrow, run up the bills and walk away from your creditors.
Government shutdowns don’t come cheap—the last three shutdowns cost nearly $4 billion, and that doesn’t include all the downstream costs and damage to the lives of ordinary Americans. If civil servants aren’t on the job to process Social Security payments or veterans’ benefits, people will be hurt. Your neighbor with a job at a nearby military installation or federal agency is one of a couple million workers who will get furloughed. If you’re a law enforcement officer or other essential worker in the federal force, you’ll have to show up for work, but you won’t be paid. If you own a coffee shop or diner or florist frequented by those government workers, you lose your customers. The pandemic may have already curtailed your business, but the Deadbeat Republican Party’s shutdown will finish you off.
For at least the last decade, the Republican Party has manufactured fiscal crises while Democrats have governed through them like responsible adults on a playground filled with unruly toddlers — no offense to toddlers. It was Democrats who delivered the votes to George W. Bush to keep the economy from crashing in 2008. In 2013, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) engineered a 16-day government shutdown, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her Democrats came to the rescue to keep the government doors open. In 2019, Trump and congressional Republicans forced a shutdown over funding a border wall — it lasted a record 35 days at a price tag of $11 billion.
The word “hypocritical” is painfully inadequate for describing the Republican playbook. Under Trump and Bush, Republicans raised the debt ceiling. When Barack Obama held the White House, Republicans threatened to wreck our credit by refusing to increase the debt ceiling, resulting in a downgrade of our credit rating. Now that Biden is president . . . you guessed it: The Deadbeat Republican Party delivers once more.
Democrats, it’s time to flex your majority muscle, slim though it may be. Kill the filibuster and raise the debt ceiling to keep this country running. And then, having freed yourselves to govern the way most Americans want . . . start doing it. Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to save our democracy, and for good measure throw in police reform by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. It’s one thing for the Deadbeat Republican Party to take itself down, but it should leave the rest of us alone so we can move forward.