Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell buckled under pressure on Wednesday, and caved to Democrats. He said that he would allow an emergency debt limit extension into December in order avoid a standoff and federal default.
“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation,” McConnell declared.
Earlier Wednesday, President Joe Biden enlisted top business leaders to push for immediately suspending the debt limit, saying the approaching Oct. 18 deadlines created the risk of a historic default that would be like a “meteor” that could crush the economy and financial markets.
At a White House event, the president shamed Republican senators for threatening to filibuster any suspension of the $28.4 trillion cap on the government’s borrowing authority. He leaned into the credibility of corporate America — a group that has traditionally been aligned with the GOP on tax and regulatory issues — to drive home his point as the heads of Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Nasdaq gathered in person and virtually to say the debt limit must be lifted.
“It’s not right and it’s dangerous,” Biden said of the resistance by Senate Republicans. “So let’s end this mess and vote today.”
Business leaders echoed Biden’s points about needing to end the stalemate as soon as possible, though they sidestepped the partisan tensions in doing so. Each portrayed the debt limit as an avoidable crisis.
“We just can’t wait to the last minute to resolve this,” Citi Bank CEO Jane Fraser said. “We are, simply put, playing with fire right now, and our country has suffered so greatly over the last few years. The human and the economic cost of the pandemic has been wrenching, and we don’t need a catastrophe of our own making.”
Congress has just days to act before the Oct. 18 deadline when the Treasury Department has warned it would quickly run short of funds to handle the nation’s already accrued debt load.
The Senate, meanwhile, had been scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to take up a bill to suspend the debt limit. Republicans were again expected to block it. To get around the GOP standoff, Biden indicated in off-the-cuff comments Tuesday Democrats were weighing a change to Senate rules.
“It’s a real possibility,” Biden told reporters.
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