- Senators reached an agreement on the debt ceiling after McConnell made an offer to Democrats yesterday.
- Trump blasted McConnell for “folding to the Democrats,” saying he has “all of the cards” and it’s “time to play the hand.”
- “He’s not here right now,” quipped Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
As Republican and Democratic senators grappled toward an agreement to avert a debt ceiling crisis, former President Donald Trump released a statement accusing McConnell of “folding” to Democrats. But Senate Republicans seem to be paying the former president little mind.
“He’s not here right now,” quipped Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who quickly pivoted to critiquing Democrats. “It’s just the reality of the situation, this is [Democrats’] deficit spending, they have control of the legislative and executive branch, they have every ability to increase the debt ceiling.”
“I’m not concerned about anything but policy,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
“I’ll leave the punditry to others,” said Sen. Josh Hawley with some hesitation. “But I’ve always said that I’m not going to vote for a debt ceiling increase.”
Most tellingly, several Republican senators declined to say anything at all. “No comment on anything,” said Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Sens. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and John Kennedy of Louisiana, also declined to comment, staring downward as Insider asked each about Trump’s statement.
The Trump missive came on Wednesday following Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s offer to let Democrats kick the debt ceiling issue back a couple of months; both sides reached a deal overnight to hike country’s borrowing limit by $480 billion dollars, likely staving off a fiscal crisis until December 3rd.
“Looks like Mitch McConnell is folding to the Democrats, again,” Trump declared. “He’s got all of the cards with the debt ceiling, it’s time to play the hand. Don’t let them destroy our Country!”
—Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) October 6, 2021
It was unclear what “cards” the former president wanted McConnell to play, and spokespeople for both Trump and McConnell did respond to a request for comment.
“No, I think he offered him a deal that’s not fully, obviously, with what he would want, but it’s something that buys more time to give him what he does want,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, rebutting Trump’s claim.
The only Republican who fully backed Trump’s statement was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a once and potentially future presidential contender who is one of a handful of senate Republicans forcing the chamber to break a 60-vote filibuster to pass the debt limit measure.
“Of course,” Cruz said when asked if he thought McConnell had folded. “I think the Democratic threats to destroy the filibuster caused him to give in.”
Some Democrats had begun floating a carve-out to the Senate’s filibuster rules on Wednesday to allow them to raise the debt ceiling with just 50 votes. But with McConnell’s offer, that pathway is no longer necessary provided that he has the 10 or so Republican votes needed to overcome any filibuster.
McConnell and other Senate Republicans view the short-term agreement as a way to put further pressure on Democrats, writing in his statement that it will “give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation,” something Democrats remain reticent to doing.
—Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) October 6, 2021
Still, Republicans weren’t exactly happy to be involved in the $480 billion debt ceiling hike. Ten GOP senators will have to vote with all 50 Democrats to allow debate on the measure as part of the infamous “filibuster” process, with McConnell pressing his caucus to find the votes.
“The goal is to not have our fingerprints on lifting the debt ceiling,” Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana told POLITICO.
But at the end of the day, senators seemed much more eager to train their fire on the Democrats’ massive, $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill than contend with what the former president — who remains highly popular within his party — had to say.
“My Democratic colleagues want to pass a spending orgy reconciliation bill that would attempt to tax and regulate our country into European Neo-socialism,” said Kennedy. “To do that, they’ve got to raise the debt ceiling.”