Don't know why she would, but she might surprise us.
With the debt ceiling crisis put on hold and a meh jobs report for September (which could be worse, considering all the damn COVID), White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki should have plenty to talk about today! We bet she'll take about 30 versions of the same question about the jobs report, which will all be "Why isn't everyone back to work while a quarter of the eligible population decided not to get vaccinated, huh?" Let's see how her patience holds up!
Will some idiot ask her why Joe Biden has a "fake White House" that doesn't actually look anything like the White House but is upsetting many wingnuts this week? Doocy. It's gonna be Doocy.
Here is your WonkTV!
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Chuck Schumer said they should be more helpful, and they are piiiiiiiissed.
As expected, Democrats in the Senate voted last night to temporarily raise the federal debt limit, heading off a default on the US debt that would have been catastrophic for the US economy and likely would have caused a worldwide economic crash. But before that vote could go forward, with only Democrats voting for the plan, 50 to 48, Senate Republicans had to follow through on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's pledge that his party wouldn't block the vote.
Ted Cruz immediately filibustered by objecting to allowing the vote by unanimous consent, which meant that McConnell had to scrape up at least 10 votes just to fulfill the promise he'd made not to crash the economy yet. Eventually, 11 Republicans voted for cloture, which meant Democrats could go on to pass the completely routine measure with only their own votes.
But first, Cruz had to deliver a very pissy little speech about how terrible it was that McConnell refused to hold firm and force Democrats to use the far more complex process of reconciliation to raise the debt limit.
"Schumer was on the verge of surrender. And unfortunately, the deal that was put on the table was a lifeline for Schumer. And I disagree with that decision," Cruz said. "The strategy was exactly right. And for two months, Republicans were completely unified."
Again, the debt limit had to be raised to keep the country running. But what good is a pointless power play if you can't get your enemy to kneel before Zod, and perhaps downgrade the USA's credit rating?
Talking Points Memo founder and benevolent overlord Josh Marshall has some thoughts on Cruz and his party's weird cynical game, which we shall transcribe for you from this excellent Twitter thread, written last night as the 10 Republicans were in the process of being scrounged.
The current situation Cruz has created for his GOP colleagues captures the way that irresponsibility, the evasion of responsibility has become the centerpiece of GOP party ideology. The caucus is happy to allow Dems to do on their own what every GOP member knows MUST be done: pay the country's bills. They're willing to allow it if they don't have to touch the process. No fingerprints. But big preening dickwad Ted comes along and says I'm going to object. Now he's created a situation where 10 GOPs have to help overrule dickwad Ted.
But it's proving super hard to find 10 because voting for what's technically called "cloture" - forcing Ted to sit the fuck down - is in GOP logic basically just voting to raise the debt ceiling since it makes it possible for Democrats to vote to do it.
So preening Ted is making 10 colleagues walk the plank into the deep vast ocean of RINOdom. Now remember, all 100 senators know the debt ceiling must be raised. The entire thing is an exercise in not taking responsibility for what you know has to happen.
But here in the guise of preening dickwad Ted Cruz it's the snake of GOP preening recklessness eating itself.
And there's your Party of Reagan today: absolutely committed to blocking even the most normal functions of government for the sake of an illusion of winning some partisan point. And of course we remember how well that worked for Cruz in 2013 when he shut down the government to defund Obamacare. Spoiler: It didn't work at all, but a lot of government workers had their income delayed, and people needing government services were shit out of luck, and essential workers worked with no pay, so it was a big success for dickwad Ted Cruz, you bet.
Following the vote, there was another outbreak of incivility, as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer not only failed to apologize to Cruz for not letting the US default on its debt, but had the temerity to castigate Republicans for playing chicken with the economy, even though it was all Schumer's fault in the first place because he insisted on being a Democrat and doing very basic governing.
Here is Schumer being an absolute monster of ungraciousness following the vote on cloture. Also, Joe Manchin put his hands over his face at Schumer's unspeakably partisan venom and ungentlemanliciousness.
Schumer accused Republicans of playing a
dangerous and risky partisan game, and I am glad that their brinksmanship did not work. [...] For the good of America's families, for the good of our economy, Republicans must recognize in the future that they should approach fixing the debt limit in a bipartisan way.
He even said that Republicans should do the right thing and agree to a long-term debt ceiling extension when the temporary extension ends, around December 3, instead of another round of "risky drama." He also thanked his Democratic colleagues for their work to "pull our country back from the cliff's edge that Republicans tried to push us over."
Weirdly, Chuck Schumer, not Ted Cruz, is the guy getting grief for being a monstrous partisan. Imagine that! Politico reports that following the speech, some Republicans who had voted to break the filibuster, like John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), rebuked Schumer for not being sufficiently gracious, considering how nice they'd been in allowing Democrats to save the economy from them. For that matter, Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also upbraided Schumer for being so partisan, although Romney had actually voted to continue the filibuster.
Lindsey Graham, however, told Politico those Republicans were just bad sports: "Listen, they kicked our ass and we have no one to blame but ourselves."
Again: There is something deeply fucked up that Republicans are sore and mad at their failure to drive the country off a cliff.
Also, this fun observation about Schumer: "a source who knows him well said, "He's not gracious, he's from Brooklyn!"
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What's Up With The Debt Ceiling? What Channel Is The Debt Ceiling? When Does The Debt Ceiling Start?
Take that, search engines!
With the US just 11 days away from defaulting on its debts, the Senate has reached a deal to temporarily raise the debt ceiling until sometime in early December so we can go through the same stupid fight all over again in two months. The deal was announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this morning while we were writing the first draft of this story and joking that an actual deal would probably be announced two minutes after we clicked "publish." We were so close! CNBC has the deets:
The agreement allows the debt limit to increase by $480 billion, according to people familiar with the deal, a sum the Treasury Department estimates will allow it to pay bills until Dec. 3.
Yesterday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed the temporary extension of the debt limit, although it's hardly a terrific deal. But by heading off a possible default, it will at least prevent a meltdown of the world economy, at least until the new limit draws closer.
So did McConnell blink? Or was it just some weird turtle reflex? McConnell and Senate Republicans have been playing chicken with the economy and people's lives for weeks now by refusing to cooperate on raising the debt limit, which is usually a routine part of governing. But because McConnell sees a political advantage in portraying Democrats as fiscally irresponsible with next year's midterms coming up, he's not only refused to let the bill pass with a bipartisan vote, he's also refused to allow 10 Republicans to vote for "cloture," which would let Democrats pass the bill with only 50 votes, plus a tie-breaker vote by Vice President Kamala Harris.
We're inclined to think McConnell may have begun to realize that threatening to crash the economy over nothing wasn't a good look, judging by the weapons-grade bullshit he deployed in his statement, insisting that the delay he'd caused was all Democrats' doing, but lucky for America, he was generously willing to save America from default.
Let's decode McConnell's ransom note, shall we? He said that, to "protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis" — again, a crisis that exists solely because of McConnell — Republicans would "allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December."
Translation: Instead of suspending the debt limit, the way Republicans did for four years with Democratic cooperation while Donald Trump was in office, the temporary extension won't be for two months, but will be a new ceiling with a definite number — that $480 billion — that Republicans can use in campaign ads. Beyond that, McConnell made clear he still wants those terrible irresponsible Dems to use the reconciliation process, which Schumer has opposed because it takes a long time and would still be subject to Republican delays, and because it too would have to have a definite number instead of a timeframe. [Wonkette Editrix Rebecca is still irked that Democrats won't just bite the bullet and do it on their own, because "waah unfair we have to SAY A NUMBER," and "waah they will do ADS AGAINST US" both strike her as SHUT UP AND GOVERN. You're perfectly willing to do Build Back Better on a party line vote, just BE MEN AND WOMEN ABOUT IT, MY GOD.]
Under Senate rules, reconciliation can be used once a year to increase the debt ceiling, so using reconciliation for the debt limit wouldn't prevent Democrats from also passing the Build Back Better reconciliation bill,. That's the big ball of New Deal that would expand social benefits and tax relief to the middle class, and begin fighting global warming by starting the transition to clean energy.
McConnell had ideas about that, too! He generously offered Democrats the option of a long-term extension of the debt limit if they'd simply scrap Build Back Better. Mitch really knows his Bible, we guess — he was willing to let Democrats exchange Joe Biden's entire legislative agenda for a mess of pottage.
The New York Times reports that the main reason McConnell offered the two-month extension was far less grandiose: Not only did the proposal blunt criticism of GOP intransigence,
It also put off, for the time being, the prospect that Democrats might change the filibuster rules to allow themselves to go around Republicans and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally. It was that possibility, some G.O.P. senators said on Wednesday, that had motivated Mr. McConnell to seek a deal.
Now, there are plenty of reasons not to like the short-term extension of the debt ceiling. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed out yesterday that it would be a hell of a lot simpler for Republicans to simply choose not to filibuster a debt ceiling suspension bill that's already on the table, "so we can move on to more business for the American people."
Why kick the can down the road a couple more weeks? Why create an additional layer of uncertainty? Why not just get it done now? That's what we're continuing to press for and that's our first choice.
Schumer had planned another debt ceiling vote yesterday, but held off on it once McConnell announced his proposal. The bill for the short-term extension is expected to pass in the Senate today, and then move rapidly through the House and on to Biden for his signature.
Sen. Chris Murphy told the New York Times yesterday that Democrats are "willing to take this offer in order to stave off fiscal ruin," but added that Democrats are "are all beside ourselves that the only thing Republicans are willing to do is prevent disaster for three months and put us right back in this position." Two months, Senator. It's October now. We guess he was including the month that McConnell has already spent blocking any progress.
So where do we go from here? Now that the immediate crisis is averted (the Dow increased by 540 points after the agreement was announced), the options look about the same as they were yesterday: 1) Hope 10 Republicans will break ranks and allow a vote on the goddamn bill, which is pretty unlikely; 2) when the next deadline gets close, actually get rid of the filibuster for debt ceiling bills, which would largely amount to ending the legislative filibuster (which you know Republicans will do if they take the Senate anyway, no matter how much Joe Manchin sighs about tradition and bipartisanship); 3) Raise the debt ceiling by reconciliation between now and December, even though that would involve a definite upper debt limit number that Republicans would wave around in 2022 midterm elections while claiming that Democrats are spending America into the Apocalypse.
For our money (hey, because taxes, some of it is our money), we still think 3 is the best option, even if it gives McConnell a pointless "win," because it solves the problem. The short-term increase already has a number, and it's not like Republicans won't just lie about Democrats anyway while pulling numbers out of their asses.
Put the work into Build Back Better, make sure the benefits get to voters as soon as possible in 2022, and sell the hell out of the success while pointing out that Republicans are trying to end democracy and want you to die of COVID.
Then if Dems can solidify their majority in the Senate, how about we kill the filibuster and repeal the debt limit altogether? It's a stupid pointless relic of World War I that has never done a damn bit of good to prevent deficit spending, so send it to the trash, please.
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Nobody knows what Kablooie will be, exactly.
The fuck-tussle over the debt limit continues on in its inexorable stupidity today, with Republicans continuing to insist they won't act on what's normally a simple matter of authorizing the USA to keep borrowing to pay its national debt, which has been accumulated under presidents and Congresses of both parties. Why? Because Rs are in the minority and they can, is about it. There's the minor detail that if the debt limit isn't increased or suspended, the nation's credit rating will be downgraded, with ripple effects throughout the US and world economies that would likely cause a global recession, but on the other hand, Republicans have the ability to make Democrats be the responsible adults in the room, plus they're confident that any bad news would hurt Democrats more anyway.
Now, Democrats could raise the debt limit on their own, without a single vote from Republicans, by using the budget reconciliation process. As the Source of All World Knowledge explains, that's perfectly cromulent under the weird Senate rules governing reconciliation, and wouldn't get in the way of Democrats' also using reconciliation to pass the Build Back Better bill this year as well. But Majority Leader Chuck Schumer doesn't wanna, for a number of reasons we discuss here, so he's not talking about reconciliation except as a last resort.
Schumer will instead hold one more vote this afternoon on a bill to suspend the debt ceiling until December 2022, safely after the midterm elections. There's no reason at all to think that Republicans will allow the bill to go forward. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), that very moderate gent, has already said he'll vote to filibuster, and fellow GOP "moderate" Susan Collins (R-Maine) has offered an innovative not-quite-a-deal where if Democrats simply give up on Build Back Better bill, then maaayyybe some Republicans might vote to prevent the economy from collapsing, out of the goodness of their hearts and a sense of bipartisan comity.
Oh, fuck both of yez. As Steve Martin said, comity is not pretty.
So what happens after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denies Debt Ceiling Jesus a third time, and the cock crows? As those fun kids at Punchbowl News (brought to you by Chevron) explain, there are several possibilities, and nobody knows which door the big prize, a 1973 AMC Pacer and no economic disaster, is behind. One thing that's fairly certain is that Schumer will have to cancel next week's scheduled recess, since Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government will be flat out of funds to pay its debts by October 18.
Last night, President Joe Biden said there's the possibility that Senate Dems may have little choice but to carve out an exception to the filibuster rule for the debt limit, which would be one way to get the issue over and done with, and permanently, at that. But as with other calls to change the filibuster rules, there's a Joe Manchin-shaped roadblock in the way. Manchin has remained adamant against going nuclear on the filibuster, and as Punchbowl News points out, Manchin "told reporters to 'forget the filibuster' Monday because there are other ways to lift the debt limit" — i.e., reconciliation.
The punch bowlers also suggest that, whatever any carve-out or exception or one-time coupon that expires immediately after use might be built into such a measure, it would ultimately mean the end of the legislative filibuster, to which we say "Good!" We aren't all that frightened by the nightmare scenario Punchbowl lays out:
Remember this McConnell quote from March? "Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin -- can even begin -- to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like," McConnell said on the floor. "None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity, and this is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon."
Think about that. Democrats could win this round, and even pass their broader reconciliation package. But Republicans would drag out every other procedural move for the rest of the 117th so as to make the Senate practically unworkable. It would be a war.
Ah, as opposed to the perfectly normal way the Senate currently operates?
Still, any filibuster modification would require the support of Manchin, who already seems to be skeptical when reconciliation remains an option, and Kyrsten Sinema, who remains as much a mystery as the secret eel breeding grounds. Maybe holding off until the default deadline would change their minds, but that seems a dubious gamble. If it worked, wow, Democrats might pass some stuff, but that feels like a fantasy still.
So that would leave reconciliation, which is what Mitch McConnell wants, and which, as Schumer has said, would require a lot of work and could still be subject to GOP fuckery. Politico looks at the possibility that if Schumer knuckles under and agrees to raise the debt limit that way, some Republicans might even allow the process to move fairly quickly to avoid a default. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told Politico that forcing Dems to use reconciliation would be satisfying enough, without risking economic canned-clamity: "I mean, I'm not going to be a complete asshole about it. But I'm going to make them take some tough votes."
While Graham says he won't be an asshole, Ted Cruz says he's committed to being Ted Cruz. Asked if he'd refrain from delaying tactics if Democrats go the reconciliation route, he said only, "It would depend on the circumstance," explaining that, for the good of the Republic, Schumer must suffer for having the Senate majority:
"The only end place for this political theater is going to be complete surrender by Chuck Schumer, and he knows this," Cruz said.
Cruz is just that kind of good-government sort of guy, you see.
So there's no telling! Maybe reconciliation, maybe a filibuster carve-out, maybe 10 Republicans will decide to act like adults, or maybe Donald Trump will be reinstated and abolish the Senate. It's a very interesting time to be alive.
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