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The Senate GOP Rationale For Forcing A First-Ever US Default Is Dishonest – They’re Finally Getting Called Out For It

WSJ: " Raising The Debt Limit Wouldn’t Facilitate Future Spending And Congress Would Still Need To Raise The Debt Limit This Fall Even If No New Major Spending Programs Are Enacted.” NBC News: “Raising The Debt Limit Would Not Authorize New Spending; It Would Enable The U.S. To Borrow Money To Pay Spending That Congress Has Approved.”

The chief argument from Senator Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans - that they will vote to default on the debt because of potential future legislative action to expand health care, improve child care, and tackle the climate crisis - just isn’t true.

In fact, the debt ceiling must be lifted because of spending under current law. According to the Wall Street Journal, “"Raising the debt limit wouldn’t facilitate future spending, and Congress would still need to raise the debt limit this fall even if no new major spending programs are enacted.” The Journal also notes that raising the debt limit doesn’t authorize new spending, but rather allows the Treasury Department to issue new debt to cover spending that Congress has already authorized, including payments to bondholders, Social Security recipients and veterans.”

Furthermore, according to Treasury Department, the total new debt incurred in the entirety of the four years of the Trump-McConnell leadership was approx. $8 trillion, which includes the $5.446 trillion of new debt the Trump admin incurred since the last time the debt limit was suspended in August 2019 through the final day of the Trump admin (Jan 20, 2021).

Senate Republicans know that a default on the national debt would be a “disaster” – but they are refusing to act on the debt ceiling to hurt the Biden administration, no matter the harm to the American economy.


Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): "100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” [Press Conference, 5/5/21]

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “Let me be crystal clear about this: Republicans are united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling.” [Press Conference, 9/14/21]

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):  “Well we raised the debt ceiling because America can't default. I mean that would be a disaster.” [Fox Business, 7/18/19] VIDEO

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “I certainly don't think any senators are rooting for a debt limit crisis that could put our full faith and credit at risk. So I believe that every one of our colleagues wants this agreement to pass. That means every one of our colleagues should actually vote for it. The House has passed this deal. The president is ready and eager to sign it. It's our turn to do the job.” [Floor Remarks, 7/31/19] VIDEO

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): "‘I don't want to say that it has to [be] clean, as we say, because there may be some proposals that make sense to include,’ said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). ‘But my No. 1 goal in dealing with the debt ceiling is making sure we don't default.’" [Politico, 5/30/17]

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): “Murkowski said not all of her colleagues in the Senate will say it out loud, but she believes most agree that failing to raise the debt limit would harm perception of the country. ‘If you incur an obligation, you have a responsibility to pay for that,’ Murkowski said.” [News-Miner, 1/15/13]

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): “When the government shuts down, it still retains essential employees, the military still functions and Social Security checks are sent out, Portman said. If the debt limit isn't raised, the government cannot borrow money to pay its bills, he said. ‘We have to avoid that,’ he said.” [Sandusky Register, 8/30/17]

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “To not raise the debt ceiling could be a default of the United States' bond and Treasury obligations. That would be very bad for, for the position of the United States in the world at large.” [NBC’s Meet The Press, 1/2/11]

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): “‘We will raise the debt ceiling. We're not going to default on our debt,’ Cornyn told the Houston Chronicle editorial board. ‘I will tell you unequivocally, we're not going to default.’” [Houston Chronicle, 1/17/13]


Washington Post: “GOP lawmakers during the Trump administration voted three times to suspend the debt ceiling. Federal policymakers added trillions of dollars to the federal debt during Trump’s presidency — significantly more than has been added by Biden — with the support of Republican leaders. The $28 trillion national debt rose by roughly $7.8 trillion during the Trump administration.” … “However, the debt ceiling would have to be raised regardless of whether Biden’s economic package is approved. The GOP aide said that the matter was about future spending because raising the debt limit to a new number would authorize additional spending to a new level.” … “McConnell himself voted to increase or suspend the debt ceiling 32 times in the past, including three times under Trump, according to the administration. A spokesman for McConnell did not contest the figure. Roughly 97 percent of the current U.S. cumulative debt was accrued before Biden took office. Republicans under Trump approved a tax cut in 2017 that added more than $2 trillion to the federal debt, as well as coronavirus aid packages that cost more than $3 trillion. McConnell under Trump also approved additional increases in spending on domestic programs and the military budget, as concerns about the deficit among GOP leaders appeared to evaporate after emerging as a major flash point of the Obama years.” [Washington Post, 9/20/21]

Wall Street Journal: "Raising the debt limit wouldn’t facilitate future spending, and Congress would still need to raise the debt limit this fall even if no new major spending programs are enacted. That is because Congress has already approved spending and tax policies that result in large budget shortfalls, which the Congressional Budget Office projects will total $12 trillion over the next decade. In recent years, those budget gaps were driven by large bipartisan budget deals, a GOP tax cut and more than $5 trillion in pandemic relief." [Wall Street Journal, 9/19/21]

Washington Post (Kane): “The debt limit only applies to paying for the expenses of policies already enacted, not to legislative proposals that have not been signed into law. Even if it did, Collins voted in August for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that would add to the government’s debt, a point she has not made in defending her plan to vote to allow a default.” [Washington Post, 9/18/21]

CNN: “It's a particularly rich position for McConnell since Republicans unilaterally passed the tax cuts in 2017 that turbocharged the deficit spending highway the US has been driving on for decades. They also approved the first round of pandemic relief passed under former President Donald Trump.” [CNN, 9/18/21]

AP: “An Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Treasury shows that nearly 98% of the nation’s $28.4 trillion debt predates Biden’s inauguration in January. That includes about $7.8 trillion heaped onto the pile during Trump’s four-year presidency.” [AP, 9/17/21]

New York Times: “There are two problems with Mr. McConnell’s argument. First, the reason the government is crashing into its debt limit is the tax cutting and free spending of the Trump years. As Democrats note, raising the limit is equivalent to paying the nation’s credit card bill for past actions, not future spending. The last time the issue surfaced, in August 2019, Congress and President Donald J. Trump suspended the debt limit through July 31 of this year. On Aug. 2, Treasury reset the debt limit to $28.4 trillion, and the government crashed through it days later, less than seven months into President Biden’s term.” [New York Times, 9/15/21]

NBC News: “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tore into his Republican counterpart, saying it is ‘risky business and dangerous business that Sen. McConnell is involved in.’ He said Democrats agreed to extend the debt ceiling under former President Donald Trump, even after Republicans pursued a deficit-raising tax cut on a party-line basis in 2017. ‘We didn't play games. We didn't risk the credit of the country. And that's been the history,’ he said. ‘Sen. McConnell seems to be trying to break new ground by saying that we should let the country default.’ Raising the debt limit would not authorize new spending; it would enable the U.S. to borrow money to pay spending that Congress has approved. It would be necessary with or without the $3.5 trillion bill that President Joe Biden is pursuing.” [NBC News, 9/15/21]

Louisville Courier-Journal: “If America defaults, it likely would cause ‘huge shocks throughout the global economy’ and spark a severe economic recession, said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. She criticized Congress for not resolving this situation as soon as the country reached the debt limit. ‘At the end of the day, it seems that our political system makes everything absolutely as painful and dysfunctional as possible,’ she said. ‘We shouldn't be walking to the edge.’ MacGuineas pushed back against the idea Democrats should "own" the next debt-limit increase by approving it alone. The debt ceiling must be raised to continue covering expenses already authorized by legislation members of both parties approved in recent years, MacGuineas said. Congress suspended the debt ceiling for two years in a bipartisan move, which McConnell voted for, in 2019. She said the national debt jumped by about $6.4 trillion by the time that limit got reinstituted on Aug. 1. Of that $6.4 trillion in added debt, MacGuineas said: About two-thirds of it came from COVID-19 relief legislation that largely passed with bipartisan support; About 10% came from the continuing financial impact of the big package of tax cuts and reforms Republicans approved without Democrats' support in 2017; About 10% came from Democrats' American Rescue Plan. MacGuineas said she's worried by the ‘dangerous level of debt’ America has, and McConnell and other Republicans recently cited similar concerns. ‘But if you say 'I'm not going to pay the bills for the borrowing I supported in the past two years,' that's like dining and ditching,’ she said. ‘That's running out on the tab.’” [Louisville-Courier Journal, 9/9/21]