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McConnell Knows Debt Ceiling Must Rise, But He Wants Democrats to Pay for It

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14.10.2021

After months of posturing around the debt ceiling, Mitch McConnell backed off just enough last week to allow the Senate to raise the debt limit to keep the government funded through early December. It was, according to analysts and many Democratic politicians, a “win” for the Democrats, and a political loss for the GOP.

But McConnell was never playing to “win,” if winning was defined as blocking a debt ceiling increase. Quite the opposite: He was, and is, playing to raise the debt ceiling without dirtying his own party’s hands in the eyes of his base. It is a shockingly irresponsible maneuver and, at the same time, an act of insidious political skill, using the Democrats’ majority status as a cudgel against them designed to render them ever-more vulnerable in the 2022 and 2024 election cycles.

Political modeling currently suggests that the upcoming two election cycles could ultimately cost Democrats a catastrophic eight Senate seats. If that came to pass, it would solidify for a generation a situation in which Republicans lose the national vote by millions or even tens of millions of ballots yet lock into place a bulletproof Senate majority. And in McConnell’s calculus, that is more likely to come to pass if Democrats are forced to go solo in taking politically unpopular votes to increase the debt ceiling.

More than 60 years ago, Lyndon B. Johnson exercised such total control over his Senate majority that he came to be seen as the “master of the Senate,” in biographer Robert Caro’s unforgettable phrase. Johnson used his Senate majority, and then after he became president in 1963, his knowledge of how the institution functioned, to pass major social reforms. McConnell, by contrast, is using his iron grip over his caucus not to pass an ambitious legislative agenda, but rather to........

© Truthout


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