As Republicans Dig In on Debt Ceiling, Democrats Try Shaming McConnell

The last time the issue surfaced, in August 2019, Congress and President Donald J. Trump suspended the debt limit through July 31 of this year. On Aug. 2, Treasury reset the debt limit to $28.4 trillion, and the government crashed through it days later, less than seven months into President Biden’s term.

Second, a debt ceiling increase will almost certainly need at least the acquiescence of Senate Republicans to overcome a filibuster and move to a vote. Mr. McConnell would like Democrats to add a debt ceiling increase to the social policy bill, which is being drafted under budget rules that would allow it to pass with 51 Senate votes.

But Democrats said weeks ago that they would not do that. Given the difficulty in reaching near-unanimous Democratic agreement on the measure — and a series of procedural obstacles they would have to clear — it would most likely be impossible to get it to the House and Senate floors in time to avoid a default.

Democrats say that they helped Mr. Trump and Republican leaders deal with the debt limit, and that fairness dictates bipartisanship now, especially on such a consequential matter. Hence, the shame campaign.

If Senator McConnell and Senate Republicans choose to default to avoid paying debts they helped rack up under President Trump, it will devastate the economy and irreparably discredit our country’s financial standing, their party and themselves,” Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said on Wednesday. “Senator McConnell will go down as the first person in history to force a default, and every single American will know the Senate Republicans are to blame.”

Mr. McConnell is not the Democrats’ only target; they say other Senate Republicans, such as Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, understand what is at stake. Democratic leaders are likely to attach a debt ceiling increase to an emergency spending bill that includes funding for Hurricane Ida reconstruction, wildfire management and Afghan refugee resettlement; they will then dare Republican senators from Louisiana, Idaho and Montana and other interested lawmakers to vote no later than this month.

Reputation aside, Mr. McConnell has lost before. In 2015, the Senate voted over his adamant opposition to curtail the federal government’s post-Sept. 11 surveillance of U.S. phone records. He vowed this year to oppose a Senate organizing resolution to give Democrats control of the chamber unless the new majority promised to protect the legislative filibuster. Then he blinked.

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