According to conventional wisdom, congressional Republicans have no power to block Democrat plans to ram through $3.5 trillion in tax increases and new spending on welfare programs (among other things). Democrat lawmakers hope to use the budget reconciliation process to pass the legislation through the Senate with 51 votes — all Democrats plus Vice President Kamala Harris. Under this theory, the thinking goes, conservatives can at best hope for “moderate” Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) to reduce the size of the leftist legislation.
But that thinking overlooks a major factor: raising the nation’s debt limit. Democrats’ entire strategy to pass the $3.5 trillion spending bill depends upon Republicans providing the votes to raise the debt limit. The converse of that theory also holds: Any Republicans who vote to raise the debt limit are voting for Democrats’ socialistic spending spree.
Biden, Democrats Think Republicans Will Cave
While not saying which legislative vehicle Democrats would use to pass an increase in the debt limit, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claimed last week that such language would not get incorporated into the party’s reconciliation package. That reflects the current Democrat strategy, in which President Joe “Biden wants to force Republicans to vote on the debt ceiling, sensing they’ll cave.”
Politico further reports:
Biden is treating the latest Republican threats over the debt limit like a bluff. And the entire party, from congressional Democratic leadership to the top brass at the Treasury Department, is calling them on it … Learning from his former boss, President Barack Obama — who vowed not to negotiate over the debt ceiling after doing it once — Biden is essentially daring Republicans to vote down a debt limit suspension or increase.
This position sets up a unique irony: Biden claims he won’t negotiate with Republicans on our nation’s $28 trillion (and growing) national debt — although he gladly negotiates with Taliban terrorists who held thousands of Americans, and our allies, hostage during Biden’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal.
Democrats Don’t Have the Votes Themselves
In theory, Democrats could vote to raise the debt limit unilaterally, by including it in a budget reconciliation bill that can pass with 51 votes. Why won’t they embrace that strategy? Among other reasons, they don’t have the votes for it within their own party.
“Several moderate Democratic senators are not willing to support a unilateral increase in the debt, according to a Democratic aide,” Politico noted. “Democratic leaders nixed the idea of coupling the [spending] reconciliation bill and the debt ceiling last month amid worries that it would further hamper passage of their already labyrinthine social spending plan.”
In other words, because Democrats don’t have the votes to raise the debt limit themselves, they want Republicans to pay off the nation’s credit card — so they can rack up yet more debt on that credit card, to the tune of trillions more dollars.
And make no mistake: Democrats do plan to use the reconciliation bill to run up even more debt. Pelosi’s comments last week that “We will pay for more than half, maybe all of the legislation” represent the tell. Just three weeks ago, Pelosi wrote to her Democrat colleagues that “we will craft a bill that is paid for” — no “more than half,” no “maybe,” but paid for, period.
At the rate Democrats continue to define fiscal responsibility downward, one can readily wonder how many trillions in debt their spending bill would create, not least because it will include all manner of “temporary” programs they eventually want to make permanent. In fact, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget concluded Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill could actually cost more than $5 trillion when all is said and done.
Buying Republican Votes
All sorts of theories exist about how Biden and Democrats will try to entice (read: buy) Republican votes for a debt limit increase. They may attach hurricane relief provisions of interest to lawmakers from the Gulf Coast and Northeast, military spending to appeal to defense hawks, and all manner of pork-barrel projects to attract votes.
But any Republicans who vote for a debt limit increase under these circumstances would represent the ultimate Washington bailout. It would also pose a complete betrayal of the fiscal conservatism for which the party has purportedly stood for decades, albeit with a hiatus or two.
To borrow from Colin Powell’s infamous “Pottery Barn rule,” if Republican lawmakers vote for a debt limit increase, they own the reconciliation bill — all of it. All of the tax increases, all of the spending, all of the unsustainable entitlements, all of the inflation that will ensue. And conservatives should take every opportunity both before and after the debt limit vote to remind them of that fact.