Blame Chuck Schumer for the Debt Ceiling Crisis - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Blame Chuck Schumer for the Debt Ceiling Crisis
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks in New York City on April 23, 2023 (DW Labs Incorporated/Shutterstock)

Barely two weeks ago, it didn’t look like House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had enough votes to pass a bill to increase the limit on the U.S. national debt. On April 19, when the California Republican released the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 — intended to raise the ceiling by $1.5 trillion or extend it through March 31, “whichever occurs first” — NBC News noted: “Republicans have a narrow majority and can afford only four defections before the legislation collapses, with Democrats expected to vote against it en masse.”

Yet McCarthy pulled a surprising victory by managing to corral 217 votes for the bill last Wednesday, “after leadership made a flurry of last-minute changes designed to win over key GOP holdouts,” as CNN reported. McCarthy’s success had the immediate effect of eliciting angry denunciations from the White House.

“President Biden will never force middle class and working families to bear the burden of tax cuts for the wealthiest, as this bill does,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “The President has made clear this bill has no chance of becoming law.”

This is typical Democrat campaign rhetoric — “Tax cuts for the rich!” — with little or no relevance to the actual content of the bill that passed the House, which doesn’t change taxes at all. The real problem for President Joe Biden is that his team built its strategy around the belief that McCarthy couldn’t pass any debt-ceiling bill. Now that McCarthy has succeeded, Democrats have to demagogue the issue in order to protect their fragile majority in the Senate from being forced to take a vote on the debt ceiling.

It’s now Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who is the real obstacle to passing a debt-ceiling increase, and the White House’s doomsday rhetoric about a debt default — which Jean-Pierre warned would cause “a dangerous financial crisis” — ought to be aimed at Schumer, not McCarthy. Schumer won’t even hear of allowing the Senate to vote on the bill passed by the House. Making a wordplay to describe the bill as “dead on arrival,” Schumer said that: “It might as well be called the Default on America Act because that’s exactly what it is: D-O-A.” (RELATED: What You Need to Know About the Debt-Ceiling Debate)

If a majority of senators share Schumer’s opinion, why not just schedule a vote to demonstrate this consensus? For one reason, Schumer doesn’t want Democrats in swing states to have to go on record with votes that might come back to haunt them in November 2024. And for another, the House bill could pass the Senate if just two members of Schumer’s majority were to vote for it. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has spoken about the need for “a reasonable and commonsense compromise” on the debt ceiling, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, while doubtful that the House bill could pass the Senate, said it would at least “start a conversation for negotiations.” You have two votes right there that Schumer can’t necessarily count on if the House bill is brought to the Senate floor, so therefore he must prevent such a vote. Remember this the next time Democrats start lecturing us about their devotion to defending “our democracy.”

With Schumer declaring the House bill “DOA” in the Senate, the White House will be forced to solve the problem caused by McCarthy’s unexpected success in passing a debt-ceiling plan. What the Biden administration wants is a “clean” bill: one that would raise the debt ceiling without any measures to limit further deficit spending. Few, if any, Republicans in the House would vote for such a bill, however, which means that negotiations are required to reach a compromise. Here, for the record, is CNN’s description of what is in the House bill, which “proposes sizable cuts to domestic programs but would spare the Pentagon’s budget”:

It would return funding for federal agencies to 2022 levels while aiming to limit the growth in spending to 1% per year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would trim government deficits by $4.8 trillion over 10 years.

As part of the 320-page bill, the GOP is also proposing to block Biden’s plan to grant student loan forgiveness, repeal green energy tax credits and kill new Internal Revenue Service funding enacted as part of the Inflation Reduction Act last year. The plan would also expedite new oil drilling projects while rescinding funding enacted to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most Republican voters — and perhaps many Democratic and independent voters — would consider this proposal as meeting Manchin’s “reasonable and commonsense” criteria, even while Schumer condemns it as “extreme.” Basically, what Biden, Schumer, and most other Democrats in Washington, D.C., want is a blank-check approach to endless deficits, a continuation of the wild binge spending that Democrats pursued when Nancy Pelosi was speaker. There is a reason, after all, why Pelosi lost the gavel — a majority of Americans voted “no” last November, and the Democrats’ demand for a “clean” debt-ceiling increase is an attempt to nullify that referendum.

The White House initially tried to stonewall McCarthy. “We are not negotiating on this,” Jean-Pierre said in a press conference last Thursday, accusing Republicans of “holding our economy hostage.” On Monday, however, Biden caved and finally called McCarthy to schedule a May 9 meeting to negotiate a resolution. However, it is by no means certain that this meeting will yield any results, and the whole problem could be averted quite simply: Schumer could schedule a Senate floor vote on the debt-ceiling bill passed by the House.

Why aren’t Senate Republicans demanding such a vote? Are they, like their Democratic counterparts, also afraid to go on the record in a roll-call vote about the deficit spending that has caused this crisis? Does the Senate tradition of collegiality forbid Republicans from calling out Schumer’s cowardly evasion of the issue? Any fear of political fallout is foolish: There is no Republican in the Senate who represents a state where Chuck Schumer is a popular figure. One could easily imagine 30-second ads reversing the accusation that Jean-Pierre makes against Republicans — “Why is Chuck Schumer holding America’s economy hostage?” — if the GOP had enough guts to turn the debt-ceiling standoff into a fight.

It’s long past time for Mitch McConnell to take off the gloves and start such a fight with Schumer. McConnell may be scarcely more popular than Schumer with many Republican voters, but a little courage in this crisis would go a long way to fixing that problem, too.

READ MORE by Robert Stacy McCain:

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