Democrats slam Mitch McConnell for taking economy ‘hostage’ by rallying GOP against extending US’s ability to pay its bills on time

McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump is still ‘liable’ for his conduct in office. Samuel Corum/Getty Images
  • Democrats assailed Mitch McConnell for trying to rally Republicans against raising the debt ceiling.
  • “He’s not going to be able to hold the economy hostage,” a top Democrat said Wednesday.
  • Republicans had previously backed raising the debt ceiling under Trump.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Congressional Democrats slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Wednesday for threatening to oppose an extension of the US’s ability to pay its bills, a step that could jeopardize the US’s economic recovery if Congress doesn’t act.

Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters that the national debt ballooned under President Donald Trump as a result of the pandemic and a 2017 Republican tax law that reduced the country’s tax revenue from large corporations. The debt grew $US7 ($AU9) trillion under the Trump administration.

“Now Mitch McConnell wants to skip out on paying the bills, we are not going to let him do it. He’s not going to be able to hold the economy hostage,” Wyden said. “We are going to move this quick.”

Wyden said Democrats didn’t make political demands in exchange for supporting raising the debt ceiling while Trump was in office. He described McConnell’s move as “stallball.”

“Mitch McConnell is playing Russian roulette with this economy,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranked Democrat in the upper chamber, told reporters.

The Kentucky Republican said in an interview published on Punchbowl News on Monday that Republicans wouldn’t strike a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, the statutory limit that the federal government can borrow to pay its bills.

McConnell said Democrats would have to do it alone through reconciliation, a legislative track that only requires a majority vote and would therefore be feasible to pass without Republican support.

Wyden declined to answer Insider when asked if it would be difficult to get all 50 Senate Democrats onboard. Still, there were signs that the Biden administration had no intention of striking a deal with the GOP.

“We expect Congress to act in a timely manner to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, as they did three times on a broad bipartisan basis during the last administration,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. Still, Democrats have not decided how to raise the debt ceiling only nine days before it expires.

“They have to decide what the strategy is, but I do think it’s going to be easy to get Democrats onboard,” Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, told Insider on Wednesday.

The US is scheduled to hit the debt ceiling limit on July 30, two years after it was last extended. But the Treasury Department has the ability to to pay off the US’s debt on its own for a limited time and head off a default with potentially catastrophic consequences for the economy.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasted on Wednesday the Treasury would “probably” run out of cash sometime in October or November.

Other Democrats simply shrugged off McConnell’s threat.

“‘Meh’ is my official response,” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a Democrat sponsoring a bill to abolish the debt ceiling, said in an interview. “Doesn’t matter, we’ll handle our business. This is something the Hill freaks out about every year or so. We will not negotiate over it, we will not concede anything and we won’t fail to do our job.