BREAKING: Jen Psaki just slammed Mitch McConnell's proposal to postpone the debt ceiling fight to December: "Why kick the can down the road another couple of weeks? Why create an additional layer of uncertainty? Why not just get it done now?"
— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@NoLieWithBTC) October 6, 2021
Late last night, in a comment to Anne Laurie’s Late Night Open Thread post, I stated (edited lightly for clarity):
To answer Jen Psaki’s rhetorical question, the reason McConnell is willing to kick this to December is that it actually gives him more leverage. He’s counting on the following three things:
- That the negotiation process for getting the infrastructure as reconciliation bill done will be so toxic that it will actually harden Sinema’s narcissistic chaos agent Heath Ledger’s Joker impression. This will make it even harder for the Democrats to do a simple filibuster revision just for the debt ceiling as she’ll have dug herself in so deep there’s no way that Schumer can get her extricated from her position and lined up in the right direction. He’s also counting on this happening with Manchin too, but since Manchin has a history of grousing and stalling and then doing the right thing when push comes to shove, Sinema is the play.
- If the debt ceiling is only waved or raised until December, then when he kills the hostage it is even more traumatic as it will come a few weeks before Christmas. Republican officials and conservative movement leaders and the conservative news and digital media people are already screaming that Biden and Fauci won’t cancel Christmas on them. If he forces a default before Christmas, the informational foundation has already been laid down in the news media – political journalists, pundits, mainstream, and conservative news – to blame what would become the worst Christmas in the US since at least 1941 on Biden and the Democrats.
- Finally, he’s counting on Ted Cruz being Ted Cruz. Meaning if Cruz blows up the very narrow opening created by what is being referred to as McConnell blinking, then McConnell will be able to go out and say “It isn’t my fault. We told the Democrats what they had to do, we gave them a simple plan over a month before the potential default in October and they refused to even consider it unil it was too late. They should have known Cruz would do something like that, which is why I told Senator Schumer and President Biden well in advance that they needed to start reconciliation for the debt ceiling immediately. It is their fault they refused to listen to common sense advice.
That’s McConnell’s strategy here. That’s McConnell’s play.
ETA: There’s one other important component here, which is McConnell continuing to work the political journalists and pundits to further drive Biden’s negatives up. The goal here is to depress Democratic turnout in the off year state elections this November, as well as turn as many Independents towards the Republicans as possible because they believe things are going in the wrong direction. And then carry that through the 2022 elections to retake the Seante and the House, which will allow McConnell to functionally end the Biden administration two years early and, as a result, setting the conditions for a GOP sweep in 2024 as people will want a change, any change, to turn things around. The Virginia state elections will be an early indicator as to whether this will work.
McConnell also wants to force this through reconciliation because the Parliamentarian won’t allow the debt ceiling to just be waived through reconciliation. Which requires the Democrats to raise it by a specific dollar amount. This allows McConnell to use that gigantic number against them to improve his own chances of retaking the Senate majority while the Republicans also retake the House majority.
Chief Wright, like me and many of you, has seen this before:
Once again, the Senate kicked the debt ceiling can down the street to December, so they can threaten a government shutdown and furlough of government employers right before Christmas
Or, as anyone who's been through this before: The Traditional Congressional Holiday Ass Fucking
— Stonekettle (@Stonekettle) October 7, 2021
Senator McConnell is already revising the narrative that today’s events to temporarily raise the debt ceiling are the result of his efforts to get the Democrats on track and therefore, despite all the actual evidence, he is the hero of this story, not the villain. From the 11:20 AM time stamped update:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took full credit on the debt ceiling suspension agreement, insisting that Democrats didn’t have a plan to avoid default until the offer he issued yesterday.
“Republican and Democratic members and staff negotiated through the night in good faith,” McConnell said. “The Senate is moving toward the plan I laid out last night to spare the American people a manufactured crisis.”
Democrats did have a plan, though, to pass a House-passed debt ceiling elevation through unanimous consent, but Republicans wouldn’t cooperate.
To no surprise, McConnell insisted that Democrats had plenty of time to raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation (which Democrats didn’t want to do) as he patted himself on the back for the agreement between both parties to extend the debt ceiling through early December.
“The pathway our Democratic colleagues have accepted will spare the American people any near-term crisis while definitely resolving the majority’s excuses that they lack time to address the debt limit through the 304 reconciliation process,” McConnell said. “Now there will be no question they’ll have plenty of time or if our colleagues would instead prefer a more traditional bipartisan discussion around basic governance, they can stop trying to ram through another reckless spending and taxing spree that would hurt families and help China.”
Senator McConnell’s overall goals for the remainder of the year are to scuttle the infrastructure via reconciliation bill, which he knows will also fail the infrastructure through regular order bill, and force a US debt crisis right before Christmas because he believes it will help him retake the Senate and Republicans retake the House. This is why he was dealing directly with Senators Manchin and Sinema yesterday before he made his most recent play. Talking to them is part of his plan to protect the filibuster, which is one of his most potent tools.
One of his other most potent tools is that he has a caucus full of legislative extremists who also like to showboat. He can always count on senators like Senator Cruz, Senator Hawley, and/or Senator Cotton to make him look reasonable and personable. In this case he’s counting on Senator Cruz being Senator Cruz:
Unlike Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants a requirement of 60 votes to advance the debt ceiling bill instead of letting Democrats pass cloture via unanimous consent.
Cornyn did not specify who the GOP holdouts are on giving unanimous consent for the cloture vote on the debt limit bill to happen today, but Cruz appears to be among a handful who want to kick up a storm in an effort to deflect from the notion that the party “caved” to Democrats.
This deal, provided it doesn’t still fall apart, is a reprieve. It is not a decisive victory. Senator McConnell has made a tactical retreat in order to preserve his ability to achieve his actual strategic objectives.