The Senate was poised Tuesday to lift the nation’s debt limit by $2.5 trillion under a deal struck between party leaders, defusing a volatile issue until after next year’s midterm elections while saddling majority Democrats with a tough vote.
The vote comes just one day before a deadline set by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, after which the nation would be at risk of a crippling default. The bill is expected to clear the Senate on a party-line vote that garners no Republican support, with swift passage by the House likely to follow before it then heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.
For months, Republicans have used debt limit increases to sabre-rattle about Democrats’ big-spending social and environmental agenda while pledging to staunchly oppose any efforts to increase in the debt limit.
In striking a deal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell backtracked on his past words. But he also got much of what he wanted: an arrangement in which Democrats have to take a politically difficult vote with no Republican support while increasing the limit by a specific dollar figure that is sure to appear in future attack ads.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed the agreement, which will allow Democrats to pass the bill without the threat of a Republican-led filibuster.
“This is about paying debt accumulated by both parties, so I’m pleased Republicans and Democrats came together,” the New York Democrat said on the chamber’s floor Tuesday.
McConnell, meanwhile, used the occasion to attack Democrats for their “socialist spending spree.”
“If they jam through another taxing and spending spree this massive debt increase will just be the beginning,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Yet Republican arguments against debt limit increases often ignore inconvenient facts.
The nation’s current debt load of $28.9 trillion has been racking up for decades. Major drivers include popular spending programs, like Social Security and Medicare, interest on the debt and recent COVID-19 relief packages. But taxation is also a major factor, and a series of tax cuts enacted by Republican presidents in recent decades has added to it, too.
The national debt includes $7.8 trillion heaped onto the pile during Donald Trump’s four-year presidency, an analysis of Treasury records shows. The GOP-championed 2017 tax cut is projected to add between $1 trillion and $2 trillion to the debt, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.