Opinion Trumpists are vowing to sabotage Biden. Act on this now, Democrats.


HR King
May 29, 2001
It’s clear that the incoming House GOP majority will try to use debt-limit extortion to extract all kinds of concessions from Democrats. This will likely focus on refusing to raise the nation’s borrowing limit to try to secure deep spending cuts. The slimness of the GOP majority will empower the MAGA caucus, which will wield this weapon to wreak havoc we can only guess at.

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A top Senate Republican has now signaled that his party will use the debt limit to seek cuts to entitlements. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) flatly declared this week that if Republicans withhold support for raising the debt limit — which would threaten default and economic disaster — it could increase pressure on Democrats to “deliver” on raising the Social Security retirement age. This is ominous coming from the Senate GOP whip.
Unfortunately, there are reasons to be skeptical that Democrats will use the lame-duck session to protect the country from the damage this could unleash. Senate Republicans are supposed to be the sober ones, relative to the House GOP. If such threats from a GOP leader in the upper chamber aren’t enough to get Democrats to act, what would be?


The need to do something during the lame-duck session to eliminate the threat of debt-limit extortion did not get addressed in a meeting Tuesday between President Biden and congressional leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters: “That didn’t come up.”

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This is not exactly encouraging. “I’m extremely concerned,” Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), who has long argued for dealing with the debt limit, told me. “We must do this now. If we don’t, we’ll come to deeply regret it.”
True, securing lame-duck action on the debt limit would be challenging. First, there is already a ton to do, from fixing the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to preventing future coups to funding the entire government.

Second, action would require either Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on one side, or Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on the other, to play against type in a dramatic way.

Let’s start with McConnell. Democrats would like him to agree to raise the debt limit during the lame-duck session on a bipartisan basis. The hope has been that McConnell would want to do this, so he doesn’t have to raise the debt limit later when the MAGA firebrands in the House and Senate are demanding maximal weaponization of it.
But so far, there are no indications that McConnell is willing to do this. He caved in the last debt-limit showdown in 2021, but he seemingly only did so after he could argue that he had run out of other options and default loomed. That wouldn’t apply here.

Without McConnell, disabling debt-limit extortion would require Democrats to use the simple majority reconciliation process. All 50 Democratic senators could raise the debt limit well beyond what it will need to reach during the rest of Biden’s presidency.

But three Democratic aides told me they’re skeptical that Manchin and Sinema would be willing to raise the debt limit through reconciliation, because that would be “partisan.” Given what we’ve seen from them, it does seem awfully far-fetched to think they would do it on a party-line vote. So, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Democrats will defuse the debt-limit bomb before the next Congress takes over.
It’s hard to avoid a sense that Democrats don’t feel all that urgent about this because of their reading of the politics of it. Some Democrats are already hinting they relish a showdown with Republicans over pending efforts to use the debt ceiling to cut entitlements. That suggests these Democrats see things in terms similar to the bruising debt-limit fights during Barack Obama’s presidency, when Democrats were able to get Republicans to back down to some degree.

But even during those fights, which are remembered as political losers for the party that engaged in reckless brinkmanship, Republicans did extract damaging fiscal concessions. And this time around, the MAGA caucus in the House could prove more destructive than the tea party House did.

Donald Trump has already signaled he will urge Republicans to use the debt limit to damage the Biden presidency next year. With Trump running for president, it will be even harder for Republicans to resist that pressure. If law enforcement investigations into Trump grow more serious, you could see MAGA Republicans try to use debt-limit extortion to hobble or defund them.
It’s possible, of course, that Democrats will be able to prevail over Republicans in future debt-limit fights. Democratic leaders have been right a lot lately: They secured a major climate change and health-care package with Manchin against all expectations. Their strategy of postponing a vote on the bill codifying marriage equality until after the election was widely pilloried, but this week it paid off when the Respect for Marriage Act passed. So maybe Biden and the Democrats will be right once again on the debt limit.
But it appears to be an incredibly risky gamble. It would be reckless not to at least try to spare the country this needless drama and chaos.



HR Legend
Jul 14, 2011
They're going to escort millions across the border illegally? Their going to drive up gas prices? Their going make them go on kid-leave so they can't deal with transportation issues?