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Douglas Andrews / October 8, 2021

Did McConnell Get Rolled by Schumer?

Unless the Senate minority leader has a grand strategy that no one else is aware of, he inexplicably caved on the debt limit.

Mitch McConnell, John Thune, John Cornyn, Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito, Richard Shelby, Rob Portman, Susan Collins, John Barrasso, Mike Rounds, and Roy Blunt.

Those are the Republican senators who joined Senate Democrats last night to deny their Republican colleagues a filibuster and thereby move legislation forward to raise our nation’s debt limit by $480 billion, enough to fund Big Government until early December. Then we’ll begin these debt-limit discussions anew.

In other words, these 11 Republicans have rewarded the author of such delusional lies as “My Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars” and “We’re going to pay for everything we spend” with a higher limit on his maxed-out credit card.

If these 11 were the adult children of the cognitively declining Joe Biden, we’d say their enablement of him is reckless, irresponsible, even idiotic. And Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is usually playing a few moves ahead of his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, so we’re a bit puzzled by what happened last night. (Indeed, if you’re engaged in a maneuver that requires the votes of Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, you’re probably not on the side of smaller government, and you’re certainly not on the side of Liberty.)

The fact is, Mitch McConnell didn’t need to make a deal here. Why not? Because the Democrats didn’t need any help from Republicans to raise the debt limit and stave off a default. In a 50-50 Senate, with the tie going to VP Kamala Harris, they could’ve simply passed a debt-limit extension bill through the upper chamber’s reconciliation process. They could’ve gone it alone, just like they’re planning to go it alone on their tax-increase bill and their $3.5 trillion spending bill. All that’s necessary is a party-line vote.

But the Democrats didn’t want to go it alone. And now we know why. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board notes, Joe Biden gave away the game earlier this week:

“There is a process” that “would require literally up to hundreds of votes,” Mr. Biden explained. “It’s unlimited number of votes having nothing directly to do with the debt limit; it could be everything from Ethiopia to anything else that has nothing to do with the debt limit. And it’s fraught with all kinds of potential danger for a miscalculation, and it would have to happen twice.”

In other words, Mr. Biden admits that Democrats could raise the limit via reconciliation, but then they’d also have to take difficult votes on many issues on the Senate floor. Some of those votes might be unpopular. Mr. Biden is admitting that the reason is political — that Democrats want Republicans to spare them from having to take those tough votes.

So did Chuck somehow con Mitch and his Gang of 10 into forgoing the future attack ads and going along for the ride?

Maybe McConnell is playing 4-D chess. But if so, he hasn’t let on. His most recent statement, issued Wednesday, seemed to draw a line in the sand: “The unified Democratic government had two-and-a-half months to address the debt limit through reconciliation. Instead, they drifted to the doorstep of yet another self-created Democrat crisis. Whether through miscalculation or a deliberate effort to bully their own members into wrecking the Senate, top Democrats have risked adding a default crisis to the inflation crisis, border crisis, and Afghanistan crisis they have already created.”

So what changed? The only variable seems to be McConnell. Bless his heart.

“Mitch caved,” crowed his Senate colleague from Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren. “And now we’re going to spend our time doing childcare, healthcare, and fighting climate change.” Yippee. Schumer and Pelosi and their fellow spendthrifts must be thrilled, and they have McConnell to thank for it.

If there’s a more scathing indictment of the Kentuckian’s debt-limit leadership, we haven’t seen it.

Oh, wait. We forgot Chuck Schumer: “I thank my Democratic colleagues for showing unity in solving this Republican-manufactured crisis,” he gloated. “Despite immense opposition from Leader McConnell and members of his conference, our caucus held together, and we have pulled our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.”

West Virginia’s deep red state Democrat Joe Manchin, who buried his face in his hands during Schumer’s sickening triumphalism, sounded more like Captain Obvious afterward. “Civility is gone,” he said. Of course McConnell just took a load of filibuster pressure off of Manchin, which was part of his calculation.

As for what else McConnell’s 4-D chess move may accomplish, we will have to wait and see.

On the “bright” side, though, our national debt is fast approaching $29 trillion — which is more than $86,000 per citizen, more than $229,000 per taxpayer. So a measly $480 billion seems like chump change or a rounding error.

(Updated)

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