October 8, 2021
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senator Mitch McConnell, long known as the Republican mastermind in Congress, lost support among some members of his own party this week after offering Democrats a temporary deal to avert a cataclysmic U.S. credit default and safeguard the Senate’s endangered super-majority rule.
The 79-year-old Kentucky Republican, who had insisted for months that Democrats use a complex procedure to raise the debt ceiling on their own, offered a temporary fix to extend it into early December after the U.S. Treasury said it would run out of money to pay its bills by Oct. 18.
Democrats readily agreed and declared victory https://ift.tt/2YC79yW after the agreement passed the Senate by a 50-48 majority on Thursday.
“Somebody got to McConnell and finally said: ‘Hey Mitch, you know what, are you really prepared to sink the entire American economy and the global economy with your obstinacy?’” Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, told reporters on Friday.
While the deal simply postpones the same battle, McConnell’s decision to relent raised questions about whether he had put himself at a disadvantage in future confrontations.
“Republican leadership blinked. I think that was a mistake,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz told reporters on Thursday.
But Republican strategists and aides said the outcome could give the party increased leverage against President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social spending package, which Democrats hope to pass in the coming weeks.
Republicans believe the high-stakes debt-ceiling debate could make it harder for Democrats to find common ground on the legislation.
“Forcing Democrats to punt the debt ceiling into the (Biden agenda) fight may prove to be very good strategy,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant.
A Republican aide credited McConnell’s tactics with safeguarding the “filibuster,” the super-majority rule that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber. That has enabled Republicans to block many Democratic initiatives.
In the short term, McConnell faces pressure from Republican allies of former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called on the party to oust McConnell from his position.
Senator Lindsey Graham denounced McConnell’s agreement as a “complete capitulation” without naming the leader, adding: “We had a strategy and we abandoned it.”
(Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Andy Sullivan and Dan Grebler)
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