Pelosi Accuses GOP of ‘Trying to Force First-Ever US Default’ by Opposing Limit Suspension Bill
21:05 GMT 21.09.2021 (Updated: 19:46 GMT 17.10.2022)
Republicans are promising to block a Democratic attempt to force through a new borrowing limit suspension as part of a larger spending bill just days before the US government is set to run out of money. The Treasury has warned of “catastrophe” if the US is allowed to default on its debt next month.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of hypocrisy on Tuesday, noting that while he stands against an increase in the debt limit at present, he supported it two years ago.
Noting that McConnell said in July 2019 that “America can’t default, that would be a disaster,” Pelosi tweeted that the Kentucky senator and his Republican colleagues “are trying to force the first-ever default of the US. All Members must come together in a spirit of bipartisanship to protect the full faith and credit of the US.”
Two years ago, @LeaderMcConnell said: “America can't default. That would be a disaster." Yet, now he and @SenateGOP are trying to force the first-ever default of the U.S. All Members must come together in a spirit of bipartisanship to protect the full faith and credit of the U.S.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) September 21, 2021
The US government is expected to run out of money to pay its bills sometime next month if the debt limit is neither raised or suspended, allowing the Treasury to borrow more money.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who once headed the Federal Reserve, the US’ central bank, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Sunday that this would “produce widespread economic catastrophe” as the associated severe spending cuts would reduce many government programs to a trickle, including several large COVID-19 relief laws passed going back to December 2020, for which the funds have already been appropriated.
To avoid this fate, Democrats had added a line to a bill introduced on Tuesday that would keep the US government funded until December and suspend the federal borrowing limit until the end of next year.
Democrats have gambled that by adding the debt extension to a bill otherwise strongly supported by Republicans, it will make the pill easier to swallow. The bill includes $6.3 billion to resettle Afghan refugees in the United States and $28.6 billion in emergency relief for victims of recent natural disasters in the US, including wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. It also provides $1 billion for replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, which used up thousands of missiles shooting down rockets fired from Gaza during the 11-day war in May.
However, on Tuesday afternoon, several progressive Democrats managed to secure removal of the Iron Dome funds by threatening to vote against the bill.
"We will not support legislation that raises the debt limit," McConnell said on Monday. "Democrats do not need our help."
US President Joe Biden has emphasized that allowing the US to pay its bills is “a bipartisan responsibility,” calling GOP intransigence “inexcusable.” Without the support of 10 Republican lawmakers, the bill cannot pass the Senate, which is split evenly between the two major parties, but contains a filibuster rule allowing senators to hold up progress of a bill almost indefinitely if the opposition cannot muster 60 votes to override them.
While increasing the national debt has long been an issue of public debate, it became the creator of regular political crises beginning in August 2011, when Republicans protested spending increases associated with the Affordable Care Act and the 2008-9 bailouts of US banks and automobile manufacturers by refusing to approve an extension until just days before the US defaulted.
The incident had several repercussions, including the first-ever downgrading of US credit by credit rating agencies. It also led to thepassage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which lifted the debt ceiling for several years but mandated spending cuts in the longer term.