Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) tried to ratchet up the pressure on President Biden Wednesday to negotiate with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on legislation to raise the debt limit and made clear he doesn’t plan to step in to resolve the impasse.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle think McConnell will eventually have to come up with a compromise proposal to avoid default, as he did during the debt-limit standoff of 2011 and again in 2021, when he cast one of 14 GOP Senate votes to extend the federal government’s borrowing authority.
But McConnell on Wednesday warned that Biden will not be able to continue avoiding direct talks with the Speaker.
“I think the Speaker has done an excellent job of unifying our side and it’s logical for many of you to begin to wonder what happens next whether the House passes this measure or not,” McConnell said of McCarthy’s proposal to pair the debt limit increase with $4.8 trillion in spending cuts.
“What happens next is what I have said repeatedly for the last couple of months,” he said. “I want to disabuse any of you of the notion that there’s any measure clearing the Senate with 60 votes that could be approved by this House.”
“This agreement must be reached because we must never default and the agreement must be reached between the Speaker and the president,” he added.
McConnell argued that “the president knows how to do this,” noting the compromise he worked out with Biden, who was then vice president, in 2011 to raise the debt limit in exchange for significant spending cuts.
He said Biden knows that “in divided government you don’t get things exactly the way you want them.”
“So, I would remind the president — just he did in 2011 — that this is one of those occasions,” he added. “Until he and the Speaker of the House reach an agreement, we’ll be at a standoff.
“The American people expect the president and the Speaker to get together and work this out,” he said.
McConnell made his comments as McCarthy was making a furious push for 218 Republican votes in the House to pass his proposal.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking to reporters shortly after McConnell’s press conference, said McCarthy’s plan is “dead on arrival” in the Senate if it manages to pass the lower chamber.