In all of the discussion going around Capitol Hill about Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi’s proposed $3.5 trillion spending bill and its prospects under budget reconciliation, the debt ceiling has seemingly been forgotten, at least by the corporate media. The debt ceiling faces a “hard” deadline, and the budget and spending bill won’t be getting into gear unless addressed.
Even though Republicans spent the last four years increasing deficit spending like there was no tomorrow, they are now in a position again to revert to talking about “fiscal responsibility.” Neither party is likely to be excited by the prospect of explaining to the public why the national debt needs to be jacked up again, this time to somewhere around $32 trillion.
Democrats have a pathway to increasing the debt ceiling along with passing their massive spending bill. The reconciliation process in the Senate will bypass the filibuster rule and can accomplish both if all 50 Democrat Senators vote to make it happen.
However, Democrats are sure to want to force Republicans to take ownership of increasing the debt ceiling along with them. Democrats may connect raising the debt ceiling with hurricane relief funding or simply daring Republicans to vote against a stand-alone spending bill.
A likely outcome is a negotiated deal that gives Republicans some of their spending wishlist, including defense spending, in conjunction with a bump in the debt ceiling. Similar deals were struck with Republicans during the Trump administration.
Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the debt ceiling “needs to be raised.” He tellingly admitted that “the issue is who should do it.” In what McConnell called “uniquely unprecedented circumstances,” he said Democrats should use their votes to do it. He added that he believes that they will “at some point.”
House Democrats have discussed combining a debt ceiling increase with hurricane disaster relief and aid for the Afghanistan withdrawal in a vote before the end of September to keep the government funded until early December. They appear to believe that including disaster aid for Louisiana and Mississippi in the deal will make it impossible for Republicans to reject the plan.
It is likely that whatever deal is struck, both sides will wait until the very last minute before yet another government shutdown fiasco to act.