46 Senate Republicans sign pledge circulated by Ron Johnson to not aid Democrats on debt ceiling, raising prospects of default showdown

Mitch McConnell walks down a hallway.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives to speak to reporters ahead of a test vote scheduled by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on the bipartisan infrastructure deal senators brokered with President Joe Biden, in Washington, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
  • Nearly all GOP senators have agreed not to help Dems raise the debt ceiling, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The decision kicks off a battle between Democrats and Republicans over who is responsible for avoiding default.
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Nearly all Republican Senators are banding together in an effort to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own, raising the prospects of a default showdown.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that 46 of 50 Republican Senators have signed on to a pledge agreeing that they will not help their political counterparts raise the debt limit – a move that could complicate Democrats’ hopes of passing a $3.5 trillion budget.

“They shouldn’t be expecting Republicans to raise the debt ceiling to accommodate their deficit spending,” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told The Journal.

The Wisconsin senator garnered the signatures during a ‘vote-a-rama’ as Democrats were poised to advance a $3.5 trillion budget resolution sometime early Wendesday.

“We should not default on our debts under any circumstances,” the letter said. “If Democrats threaten a default, it will only be because they refuse to vote for the debt ceiling increase necessitated by their own irresponsible spending.”

In the 50-50 Senate, Democrats need at least 10 GOP senators to sign onto a debt-ceiling increase. That doesn’t grant new spending – it instead allows the Treasury Department to pay off the government’s bills by issuing new debt.

The debt limit was reinstated on August 1 at $28.5 trillion after being suspended under a 2019 law. The Treasury Department is currently paying off the government’s bills, a step known as “extraordinary measures.” But its emergency cash measures will be exhausted sometime in the fall. If Congress fails to act, it could prompt a devastating economic crash.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had previously indicated that Republicans would not assist Democrats in raising the debt limit and retired his point on Tuesday, The Journal reported. Senate Republicans in the past agreed to raise the debt ceiling under President Donald Trump, but now say the responsibility should be handed to Democrats.

“This debt ceiling is going to cover all of the things that all of us have been opposing,” McConnell told the Journal in an interview, adding the Democrats “need to do the responsible thing and raise the debt ceiling, because America must never default on its debt.”

Most Senate Republicans appear to be in lockstep behind McConnell in demanding Democrats lift the debt ceiling on their own. “They own it. They control it,” Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told Insider on Monday. “They got control of the White House, they got control of the Senate, they got control of the House. They don’t need our help.”