Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For Bipartisan Action To Avoid A Government Shutdown And Prevent A Historic Default

September 20, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to avoid a government shutdown and a catastrophic and historic default by the US government by passing legislation to fund the government and suspend the debt ceiling on a bipartisan basis. Senator Schumer explained that the debt ceiling needs to be raised because of previous obligations including the bipartisan COVID relief bill passed in December 2020. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The Republicans are doing a dine-and-dash of historic proportions that hurts the American people and hurts our country.
In the immediate future, both parties will have to come together to allow the federal government to continue its most important responsibility: paying the bills and making good on our outstanding obligations.

A few minutes ago, I joined with Speaker Pelosi in announcing that the continuing resolution that we will take up to avoid a government shutdown will also include a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022, allowing us to meet our obligations and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States. 

Suspending the debt limit through December of 2022 provides an amount of time commensurate with the debt that was incurred as a result of the $908 billion COVID emergency relief bill last year. That was a bill that was passed when Donald Trump was President, when Leader McConnell was the Majority Leader of the Senate; it was passed under Republican leadership.

That is the debt we are paying in this bill: the legislation that funded this $908 billion in COVID relief was supported by more than 40 Republicans and signed into law by President Trump.

So, anyone who says this is Democratic debt is not talking fact, they are talking fiction.

Both sides — both sides—have a responsibility to pay for the debt that we have already incurred. It has always been done in a bipartisan way.

Unfortunately, last week, Leader McConnell announced that the Senate Republicans are inclined to deliberately turn their back on their obligations. When asked if Republicans would block an extension of the debt limit, Leader McConnell—amazingly and cravenly—said that “Republicans are united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling.”

Shame. This is the same Leader McConnell who urged Democrats and Republicans to support raising the debt ceiling when Donald Trump was president and he was Majority Leader. He always comes up with some sophistry as to why it is different now, but everyone knows it is not different. In fact, Democrats supported, three times, raising the debt ceiling when Trump was president. And if my recollection is right, at least one of those times was when the House, the Senate, and the presidency were controlled by Republicans.

Should Republicans careen our country towards a default, our country could actually be plunged into recession, laying off millions and making it harder for people to pay for the food on the table and their mortgages and their rents. Shame, shame on the Republican Leader.

As Secretary Yellen put it just days ago, failure to raise the debt limit would “have absolutely catastrophic economic consequences…[and] would precipitate a financial crisis.” A default would risk sending interest rates sky high across the board—hurting consumers, small businesses, and our country’s ability to borrow in the future.

Our economy, still fresh off the trauma of the COVID crisis, could slip back into a recession and undo everything we’ve done to help struggling Americans pick themselves back up.

Now, many on the other side, including the Republican Leader himself, are trying to justify their reckless position with deeply misleading talking points. They have argued, over and over again, that they refuse to work with Democrats because they oppose our forthcoming legislative agenda.

Of course, what they don’t say is these two issues have nothing to do with each other. The forthcoming legislative agenda has not incurred any debt—a nickel of debt—in the United States. It was the previous agenda, of President Trump and the Republican Senate and Republicans in the House, that created this debt. Republicans ignore the analysis like the one done by the Washington Post, which observed that “roughly 97 percent of the current U.S. cumulative debt was accrued before Biden took office.”

Indeed, none other than the Wall Street Journal made this even clearer: “raising the debt limit wouldn’t facilitate future spending,” it said, “and Congress would still need to raise the debt limit this fall even if no new major spending programs are enacted.”

I want to repeat that, not just for Leader McConnell but for my Republican colleagues. Hopefully there are some who will rise to their responsibility and abandon this crass, craven political move with such harm to the United States that the Republican Leader has proffered.

So I will read it again: the Wall Street Journal said, “Raising the debt limit would not facilitate future spending.” And went on to say, “Congress would still need to raise the debt limit this fall even if no new major spending programs are enacted.”

So, the bottom line is simple. Let me repeat: what Republicans are doing is nothing short of a dine-and-dash of historic proportions. They want working class American families to foot the bill for their irresponsibility, and as a consequence of their callous political games, it will be Veterans and Social Security payment recipients who suffer most.

This isn’t just another partisan fight, this isn’t who can be more macho. This is about the country. All too often in the press, they make it into macho, macho. That’s wrong. What one party is doing here, everyone knows, is deliberately wrong, at least the Republican Leader and all those who choose to follow him, with serious consequences for the people.

This is not just another partisan fight: it is about avoiding a crisis that would undo all the progress our country has made to heal itself of the COVID crisis. Democrats are going to do the responsible thing and vote to extend the debt limit when the time comes. We will see which of our Republican colleagues on the other side will have the strength, the courage to follow suit.

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