McConnell Hands McCarthy the Baton on a Debt Ceiling Deal With POTUS

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is forcing Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy to take the lead on negotiating the looming debt ceiling standoff.

“I can’t imagine any debt ceiling provision passed out of the Senate with 60 votes could actually pass this particular House,” McConnell told reporters. “So I think the final solution to this particular episode lies between Speaker McCarthy and the president.”

The U.S. hit the debt limit last week at $31.4 trillion, and the Treasury Department has employed a bandaid to cover the debt until approximately June. If Congress fails to suspend or raise the debt limit, the government won’t be able to make payments to fulfill its obligations like Social Security and Medicare.

McCarthy has little experience negotiating complicated deals with Democrats. It’s not clear what, if anything, can get the votes to pass the House.

The Speaker has said he wants to negotiate with the president to find “common ground” on a “responsible debt ceiling.” McCarthy wants to eliminate wasteful spending, and Biden says raising the debt ceiling is not up for debate.

McConnell said it’s “entirely reasonable” to put spending cuts on the table.

“I wish him well in talking to the president. That’s where a solution lies.”

What others are saying:

Senator Joe Manchin — “We all know that we’re going to pass the debt ceiling, we’re not going to let the country default… We should sit down and realize we’ve got a debt that is absolutely unsustainable — [but] you do not have to scare or threaten anybody about how they’re going to lose their benefits. Social Security and Medicare should be absolutely protected immediately. That should be off the table completely, and we should start looking at all different areas that we have before we continue down this path.”

Senator Mitt Romney — The White House “needs to engage” and said cutting any benefits to current retirees or near-retirees is “off the table.” He added that longer-term debate about reforming mandatory spending on Social Security and Medicare should be explored. He has sponsored a bill with Manchin that he said could be part of that broader discussion.

Senator John Thune — Thune doesn’t think the conversation would center on social safety net programs. “I think the issue is are we going to do anything to inform our spending in a way that makes those programs more sustainable for the future. And as [McConnell] pointed out, I think there’s always an opportunity when something like this comes up, to have a conversation which sometimes can lead to an outcome, which happened in 2011 with the Budget Control Act.”

Senator Lindsey Graham

NPR, NBC

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