Politics is a delicate dance when dealing with an institution as intricate as the Senate, and that’s especially true when one doesn’t hold a majority. Every move affects the next, and sometimes, moves meant to paint the other side into a procedural corner are misinterpreted as something they aren’t.
Perhaps that’s why some on the right are claiming that Mitch McConnell “bailed out” Chuck Schumer this afternoon when he offered the Democrat majority leader a short-term debt limit increase.
My new statement on the Democrats’ self-created debt limit crisis: pic.twitter.com/XwuqyS9oZ0
— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) October 6, 2021
Here was one response to illustrate what I’m talking about with people misunderstanding what McConnell is doing.
McConnell bailed out Biden!
— Alex Bruesewitz (@alexbruesewitz) October 6, 2021
McConnell is not bailing out Joe Biden. Quite the opposite, in fact, and it doesn’t really take much effort to see what’s going on here. If anything, McConnell is backing Schumer into a corner. Stick with me here.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do when you don’t otherwise have much leverage (because you are in the minority) is to give your opponents options they do not want. Democrats want you to believe that the only way to raise the debt ceiling without Republicans playing along is to blow up the filibuster. That’s why they and their media allies keep spinning that narrative. That’s never been true, though, and the point of McConnell’s maneuver is to force Schumer to admit that.
In reality, Democrats can raise the debt limit via reconciliation without a single Republican vote, but they don’t want to go that route because they would be using the last bullet in the chamber on that after Biden’s “build back better” boondoggle. By offering Schumer a short-term extension, McConnell is forcing the Democrats to make a choice, and none of those choices includes blowing up the filibuster. The move also relieves pressure on Joe Manchin, who will be under immense assault if a shutdown happens, while at the same time highlighting that the Democrats could fix this themselves in short order if they wanted.
When analyzing these machinations, you have to accept that a long-term default is not going to happen. The debt ceiling will be raised eventually. The question is how it’s done and who pays the political price. But if you still aren’t convinced by what I’m saying, just listen to Mazie Hirono.
Some initial reactions to McConnell offer from Democrats:
Durbin: "I don't like using reconciliation for the debt ceiling."
Murphy: "My God, that sounds like a terrible idea…Just pushing this crisis off for a couple months sounds like a disaster."
Hirono: "It's bullshit."
— Kate Riga (@Kate_Riga24) October 6, 2021
Does that sound like McConnell just caved? Or does it sound like he went full Cocaine Mitch and put Democrats into a position they don’t want to be in? I think the answer is clear.