WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans won’t lend a hand to avoid a potential government default in December, less than a day after some GOP senators blasted him for helping Democrats extend the debt ceiling Thursday for two months.
In a sharply worded letter to President Joe Biden Friday, the Kentucky Republican said Democrats had had ample time to extend the debt limit without a Republican lifeline but that he “stepped up” because Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., “lacked the time and leadership skills to manage a straightforward process.”
“I write to inform you that I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis,” he wrote Biden.
The country faces default by Oct. 18 if Congress does not pass a bill that allows the U.S. Treasury to keep paying its obligations.
Senate Republicans had for weeks vowed not to help, contending that Democrats who narrowly control Congress could do so without GOP help and because they were upset that GOP lawmakers had not been included more in the crafting of taxation and spending legislation.
But with McConnell’s support and blessing Thursday, 11 Republicans joined every Democrat to end a filibuster, allowing the measure to reach the floor where a simple majority was able to pass it with no GOP votes. The House is expected to approve the two-month extension Tuesday and send it on to the president.
Some fellow Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, grumbled that McConnell had caved.
“Here’s our problem as Republicans. We said for two months we’re going do one thing, We’ve done another,” Graham said on the Senate floor before Thursday’s vote. “This was a self-inflicted wound and we need not do this again.”
Former president Donald Trump, through his Save America PAC, also tried to convince senators prior to the vote not to back “this terrible deal being pushed by folding Mitch McConnell.”
Schumer and other Democrats had slammed Republicans for imperiling the nation’s credit worthiness and inviting economic calamity, especially when much of the new debt happened under Trump’s watch and with Republicans in charge of part or all of Congress.
“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,” Schumer said after the vote, in a speech whose partisan tone further angered McConnell who said Democrats should have been grateful for GOP help.
“It has poisoned the well even further,” McConnel wrote in his letter to Biden.