Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Wednesday accused Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of hypocrisy for refusing to negotiate with House Republicans on raising the debt limit, even though the Democratic leader saw the debt limit as “leverage” to negotiate spending increases with former President Trump.
“It is right, appropriate, and entirely normal that our need to raise the debt limit would be paired with negotiations regarding Democrats’ runaway printing and spending,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, referring to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, which Democrats passed without a single Republican vote in the last Congress.
McConnell said Democrats, including Schumer, are “trying to rewrite history and pretend that Republican demands for negotiation are unusual but that, of course, is just false.”
He noted that in 2017, Schumer and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “said that the debt ceiling gave Democrats ‘leverage’ in broader talks.”
“As The New York Times explained back in 2017, then-Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leader ‘began formulating a plan to apply pressure, jettisoning the idea of backing a straightforward or clean debt limit as a way to gain muscle in the coming negotiations,’” McConnell said.
McConnell then quoted Schumer’s argument at the time that the debt ceiling “gives another ample opportunity for bipartisanship, not for one party jamming its choices down the throats of another.”
The Senate Republican leader delivered his remarks on the floor a few hours before Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was scheduled to meet with President Biden at the White House Wednesday afternoon, where the two leaders are expected to discuss the debt limit.
Schumer has urged Biden not to negotiate with McCarthy over attaching Republican-favored fiscal reforms to legislation to raise the debt limit unless House Republicans first introduce and pass a package of proposed spending caps through the lower chamber, where Republicans have a slim majority.
McConnell called out that position as inconsistent with the stance Schumer adopted after the 2018 midterm election, when Democrats captured the House. Schumer later negotiated a two-year budget deal with Trump and Senate Republicans that increased discretionary spending by $320 million and also raised the debt limit.
“I trust Democrats will be consistent with their past positions and the White House will waste no time beginning the customary negotiations with the majority over in the House,” he said. “The president of the United States does not get to walk away from the table.”
McConnell made his comments a few days after 24 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Biden stating their “outright opposition to a debt-ceiling hike without real structural spending reform that reduces deficit spending and brings fiscal sanity back to Washington.”
Asked last week whether he would be open to negotiating a deal on budget caps linked to raising the debt limit, Schumer told reporters: “I’m not going to negotiate in public.”
“Obviously, again we want to make sure that we negotiate a budget that’s good for the average working family. We did that in the omnibus bill. We were very pleased with the outcome there and hopefully it can be done again without brinksmanship, but I’m not going to get into specifics,” he said after the weekly Democratic lunch.