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Graham swears he's not trying to be 'complete a**hole' by refusing to hike debt limit

Sen. Lindsey Graham only wants to hurt Democrats in the midterms.

By Emily Singer - October 06, 2021
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Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) admitted to Politico this week that he and his Republican colleagues are bringing the United States to the precipice of financial default for political gain.

Graham, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, acknowledged that the Senate minority is using the debt ceiling to force Democrats to take “tough” votes that can be used against them in 2022 midterm campaigns.

“I mean, I’m not going to be a complete asshole about it. But I’m going to make them take some tough votes,” Graham said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that the United States will run out of cash to pay its bills on Oct. 18, less than two weeks away. She’s warned of the devastating impacts not raising the borrowing limit can have on individual Americans, interrupting Social Security payments to older people and paychecks for members of the U.S. armed forces until the limit is increased.

Senate Republicans have been filibustering Democrats’ attempts to raise the debt ceiling so that the country can pay the bills it’s already incurred, including $7.8 trillion in debt added under former President Donald Trump.

Senate Democrats plan to hold another vote on a stand-alone debt ceiling increase on Wednesday, which Republicans will delay again by means of a filibuster, a procedural move by which they refuse to provide the 60 votes needed to end debate on an issue and move it to a vote. Ten Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to get the debt ceiling increase to an up-or-down vote — and so far every single GOP lawmaker has said they will not vote to end debate.

Graham admits he wants to force Democrats to use the complicated budget reconciliation process to raise the debt ceiling, requiring limitations on debate and eliminating the need for 60 votes to pass, but allowing the GOP to force amendment votes that they feel they could then use in campaigning against Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.

Graham told Politico he wants Democrats to have to “pick a number” for a new debt ceiling.

Graham has played politics with the nation’s debt before.

In 2019, Graham tried to use the debt ceiling to force Congress to shell out $5.7 billion for Donald Trump’s wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. That gambit failed, and Congress raised the debt ceiling on a bipartisan basis without the wall funding.

In 2013, Graham tried to use a debt ceiling increase to force Congress to cut spending elsewhere. “If you raise the debt ceiling by a dollar, you should cut spending by a dollar,” Graham said at the time. “That is the way to go forward. So a dollar for dollar offset and a budget I think are two conditions to raising the debt ceiling.”

President Joe Biden has been clear that it’s Republicans who are blocking a debt ceiling increase with their filibuster and other procedural demands.

“Democrats will meet our responsibility and obligation to this country. We’re not expecting Republicans to do their part. They’ve made that clear from the beginning,” Biden said Monday in a speech at the White House. “We’ve tried asking to no avail. We’re just asking them not to use procedural tricks to block us from doing the job that they won’t do.”

With less than two weeks until default, Biden has raised the possibility eliminating the filibuster for debt ceiling increases.

“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Biden said Tuesday.

But doing so would require Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) to be onboard. They have opposed eliminating the filibuster in the past.

Defaulting on the national debt would be catastrophic. Moody’s Analytics reported last month that a default could cost 6 million jobs, as well as $15 trillion in household wealth.

“This economic scenario is cataclysmic,” Moody’s reported. “The downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis” in 2008.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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