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Politics McConnell leaves GOP in dark on debt ceiling

14:02  02 december  2021
14:02  02 december  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) returns to his office from a Senate Republican luncheon on Thursday, November 18, 2021 as the Senate discuss moving forward with debating the National Defense Authorization Act. © Greg Nash Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) returns to his office from a Senate Republican luncheon on Thursday, November 18, 2021 as the Senate discuss moving forward with debating the National Defense Authorization Act.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is keeping his debt ceiling strategy close to the vest as he negotiates with Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) ahead of a mid-December cliff.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said Congress has until Dec. 15 to raise the nation's borrowing limit or risk a catastrophic default that would have widespread ramifications for the global economy.

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But close allies say they've been given virtually no insight into the talks with Schumer, with the two leaders having a high-profile meeting before Thanksgiving before going to ground on their negotiations since then.

Asked how much he was hearing about the McConnell-Schumer negotiations, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to the Senate GOP leader, said "pretty much nothing."

"I think Sen. McConnell said today, 'Sen. Schumer's not talking about it. I'm not talking about it either,'" Cornyn said.

A senior GOP senator characterized McConnell's position as, "He and Schumer are talking and it will all work out and we shouldn't worry about it."

"That is almost an exact quote," the senator added.

Spokespeople for McConnell didn't respond to a request for comment on the debt ceiling negotiations.

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McConnell didn't disclose his thinking during closed-door caucus lunches this week, according to GOP senators who attended, and he was equally cagey during his regular press conference.

"Let me assure everyone the government will not default as it never has. And second, the majority leader and I have been having discussions about the way forward," McConnell told reporters when asked about the talks.

Pressed again on the path forward, McConnell added that he and Schumer were engaged in "useful discussion."

McConnell's tight-lipped stance comes after a bruising fight heading toward an October debt cliff, during which McConnell and Schumer traded shots as they increasingly dug into their positions.

After arguing for months that Republicans wouldn't help raise the debt ceiling and pushing Democrats to do it on their own through reconciliation, a budget process that allows them to avoid a 60-vote legislative filibuster, McConnell abruptly shifted strategies, offering to help Democrats advance a short-term debt hike.

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Republicans who support McConnell's decision argue it was meant to defang one of the top Democratic arguments against raising the debt ceiling under reconciliation: that there wasn't enough time. But it sparked unusually fierce criticism of the GOP leader from his own caucus, and his leadership team scrambled for hours to lock down the Republican votes needed to help advance the debt ceiling bill. Eleven Republicans, including McConnell, helped break a filibuster, though they all voted against passing the debt bill.

Former President Trump has repeatedly hammered McConnell over his handling of the debt ceiling and urged him to weaponize it against the rest of President Biden's legislative agenda.

"Old Crow Mitch McConnell, who is getting beaten on every front by the Radical Left Democrats since giving them a two-month delay which allowed them to 'get their act together,' 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.

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Though Republicans helped suspend the debt ceiling under Trump, it has reemerged as a live wire this year as Republicans lean back into their fiscal hawk history. Republicans characterize McConnell as aware of the potential political land mines for GOP senators from within their own party.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said that McConnell has "never tipped his hat" on the debt ceiling talks.

"I think it's one of those areas where the leader sees a high level of responsibility and probably some political waters to navigate and he's trying to navigate them before anybody else has to get in it," he said. "It's what Mitch does better than anybody."

McConnell vowed a day after the October vote that Republicans wouldn't help defeat a filibuster of a debt ceiling increase for a second time, writing in a letter to Biden, "I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis."

The temperature appears to have cooled since then.

Cornyn, referring to McConnell and Schumer, said "they both seem optimistic" they'll reach an agreement to avert a debt default.

"I think there's a realization that this is a live hand grenade that could blow up and not discriminate between Republicans and Democrats, so I think both sides are incentivized to try to figure it out," he said.

Yellen: There will be a 'deep recession' if debt ceiling isn't lifted

  Yellen: There will be a 'deep recession' if debt ceiling isn't lifted Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned lawmakers Tuesday that the U.S. could suffer a 'deep recession' if they don't raise the debt ceiling by December 15. 'I cannot overstate how critical it is that Congress address this issue,' she urged the Senate Banking Committee. 'America must pay its bills on time and in full. If we do not, we will eviscerate our current recovery.' Yellen said that in a 'matter of days' the majority of Americans would suffer financially if Congress didn't lift or suspend the debt ceiling.

Cramer added the ongoing negotiations, "seemingly in good faith," were providing "enough confidence for people to not panic anyway so far."

"I think people on both sides have a sense of confidence that a plan is being worked out between the two leaders," he said.

Republicans are offering to expedite the budget process for Democrats raising the debt ceiling on their own through reconciliation. GOP senators, and some budget experts, have also floated that the Treasury Department might have flexibility to push the debt ceiling into early next year. Yellen, however, has stressed that she has little wiggle room because the Treasury has to transfer money under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which recently became law.

Democrats have been loath to put raising the debt ceiling on their own through reconciliation on the table, with some predicting that Republicans will cave similar to the October fight. Raising the debt ceiling under the budget rules would set off a complicated process, including two vote-a-ramas, where any senator who wanted to force a vote would be able to.

"As I said, Leader McConnell and I ... are having very good negotiation or, I would say, good negotiations and don't want to oversell. And the bottom line is we hope to come up with a bipartisan agreement that both parties support that doesn't risk us in the debt limit," Schumer said.

Republicans say they believe part of the reason that McConnell is keeping such a tight lid is because Schumer also appears to be careful about what he says about their negotiations.

"The leader's been very clear to us that he's going to hold it as tight as he can," said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). "I think he believes that Sen. Schumer has held it close, so I think our leader is going to hold it close as well."

Mitch McConnell Confident He Can Get 10 Republicans to Back Him, Others Aren't So Sure .
Some Republican senators have voiced their opposition to allowing Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.McConnell reached an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to let Democrats raise the debt limit with Republican votes through a one-time process.

usr: 2
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