Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, projected confidence that the Democratic majority will not let the United States government run out of money on October 18, when it’s on track to hit the borrowing ceiling set by Congress.
“We’re gonna get this done, and we’re gonna do it in a responsible way and face this as soon as we return next week,” Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday.
“This would be deadly to our economy. It would cost us six million jobs,” Durbin said about hitting the debt ceiling.
Durbin’s comments Sunday come as Republicans in the Senate, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said Democrats will need to raise the debt limit alone, using the reconciliation process and just Democratic votes.
Yet, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have said they will not do that.
Pressed by Bash as to whether Democrats would use reconciliation and avoid the filibuster to protect the US economy, Durbin said McConnell is “playing games with a loaded weapon here” by insisting that “the filibuster be applied to the debt ceiling.”
“It may be the first time in history that that’s happened,” Durbin said, adding that McConnell’s tactics may come “at the expense of this economy.”
Durbin said he believes if McConnell’s strategy prevails, the result “would be a disaster, a financial disaster.”
“If he thinks he’s going to score political points by defaulting on America’s debt for the first time in history, Senator McConnell is wrong,” Durbin said.
While Democrats don’t necessarily think McConnell is bluffing, they’re not willing to let him dictate the terms of what happens next, according to officials and congressional aides.
CNN previously reported there is no appetite for negotiations tied to the debt ceiling, according to multiple people familiar with the thinking of Democrats, though McConnell has yet to lay out any demands. He’s unlikely to do so, allies said, having laid out his position in July with no plans to waver.
Durbin on Sunday said both economists and financiers have warned about the danger of the first US default in history.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen laid out a clear and dire message for McConnell, cautioning that the US economy, still emerging from a pandemic-driven collapse, can’t afford a self-inflicted catastrophe.
For their part, Democrats have sought to point out McConnell’s hypocrisy and have doubled down on Republicans’ role in perpetuating the country’s debt.
“This debt is Trump debt,” Schumer said on the Senate floor in July, as debate over the debt ceiling heated up. “It’s Covid debt. Democrats joined three times during the Trump administration to do the responsible thing and the bottom line is that Leader McConnell should not be playing political games with the full faith and credit of the United States. Americans pay their debts.”
And this summer President Joe Biden weighed in on McConnell’s insistence that Republicans will not vote to increase the US borrowing limit.
“I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case,” Biden said in July.
“You know, for the last four years they’ve just extended the debt limit. The reason for the significant debt is because of their, their debt, their tax cut,” Biden said, alluding to the 2017 GOP tax overhaul.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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