Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks Announcing Democrats Will Attempt To Avoid Default With Simple Majority Vote After Republicans Filibustered House-Passed Legislation To Fund The Government And Raise the Debt Ceiling

September 28, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor after Republicans blocked legislation to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. Leader Schumer announced that later today he will seek consent to set up a vote using the same process Republicans employed in 2006 to extend the debt ceiling at a simple majority threshold and avoid a catastrophic default crisis. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Last night was a low point in the recent history of this chamber.

With a government shutdown only days away—and a default crisis coming in a matter of weeks—the Senate was faced with a simple and urgent question: shall the members of this chamber allow the federal government to pay its debt and stay open, or will its members accelerate our country towards a shutdown and a first-ever default?

Yesterday we got our answer: Republicans voted unanimously—unanimously—to block legislation to keep the government open and prevent an unnecessary default on our debt.

Republicans are now the official party of default, the party that says America doesn’t pay its debts. The party that runs up balance on the credit card, receives an invoice in the mail, and sends the bill straight to the shredder. No average family could get away with what the Republicans are trying to do, that's for sure. But Republicans here shrug their shoulders and say: we incurred the debt but we don't have to pay it.

Republicans would let the country default for the first time in history, and it will be the American people who pay the price.

Now, Republicans have said for weeks—for weeks—that the United States must never be allowed to default. They said the debt ceiling of course needed to be raised. They said to do otherwise was to play with fire.

But when given the chance to actually put the fire out, Republicans chose to spray it with gasoline instead.

And now our country is staring down the barrel of two Republican-manufactured crises: a government shutdown and a default on the national debt.

But, fortunately, there’s an easy way to stave off disaster.

Last night, and this morning, the Republican Leader cited an example from the 2000s during which Republicans held unified control of government and provided the votes to increase the debt limit.

The Republican Leader said that example was “exactly the situation we’re in now.”

What Leader McConnell conveniently left out is that back then, there was a consent agreement, requested by the Republican Majority Leader, that cleared the path for the Senate to vote to increase the debt limit at a majority threshold—with only one party—allowing the minority party to vote no but also preventing a catastrophic default.

Let me be clear: I am still of the belief that addressing the debt limit— which includes debts incurred by both parties—should be done in a bipartisan way.

But let’s see if Leader McConnell truly wants what he is asking for, truly wants what he favorably looked upon as happening in the early 2000's, to allow to happen again.

Later this afternoon, I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to hold a vote to increase the debt limit at a majority threshold. In other words, we would get consent that you only need 50 votes, not 60, on this vote to increase the debt limit, and that's what happened in the past.

It would be very similar to the process that Leader McConnell cited yesterday, favorably, which allowed for the debt limit to be increased without the minority party providing any of the votes needed to do so.

So if Republicans want to abscond from their responsibilities—not vote to pay the debt they incurred—so be it. That's a bad thing, that's a bad precedent. But this is the way out. It is a way out.

It’s a straightforward proposition: if Republicans really want to see the debt ceiling raised without providing a single vote, I’m prepared to hold that vote.

I can’t imagine the Republican Leader would object to his own request, his own request.

Now, taking a step back, we need to remember that we didn’t have to be in this position at all. We could have been well on our way to resolving these avoidable crises last night.

The debt ceiling has been raised nearly 80 times over the past 60 years, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, and under both unified and divided government.

Ten years ago, Republican opposition to extending the debt ceiling was considered a fringe, a radical idea—the Republican Speaker at the time called the notion of holding the debt ceiling hostage to political ends “insanity.”

The Republican Leader himself two years ago said that we needed to raise the debt ceiling because “America can’t default,” otherwise “that would be a disaster.” His words.

Well, after last night, it is clear insanity and disaster are now the Republican party line—and it’s endangering the very bedrock upon which both our economic viability and financial credibility stand.

I hope that our Republican colleagues can walk us back from the ledge in a few hours, but it’s a sad state of affairs to see one of America’s two major political parties so casually, so gleefully, play with the livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans, all for basically a cheap political goal.

Democrats, meanwhile, are not going to abscond from these core responsibilities.

Keeping the government open and preventing a default is vital to our country’s future, and Democrats are going to make sure we do not lapse on either, in spite of the dangerous path Republicans have chosen to take us on.