WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday warned that the United States is getting “dangerously close” to hitting the debt limit, which would lead to a default on the nation’s debt.
Speaking on the Senate floor, the New York Democrat said that lawmakers would hold a procedural vote Wednesday that would allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own — as Republicans have demanded.
Schumer said that the vote is a chance for some Republican senators to show that they don’t have to “link arm in arm with those extreme members of their conference running for president.”
“They have a chance to show that they are still responsible,” he said. “It’s not too late, but it’s getting dangerously close.”
The majority leader said Monday that Congress must pass legislation that would raise the debt ceiling by the end of the week.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday that Oct. 18 is the deadline before the U.S. “will be out of extraordinary measures, have limited cash, and likely to exhaust it very quickly.” She warned that a default could plunge the U.S. economy into a recession.
Senate Republicans are refusing to lift the debt limit. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., supports raising the limit, as the Senate did in 2017 when he was majority leader, but has said that Democrats need to handle the issue on their own without the help of GOP lawmakers. Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a government funding bill offered by Democrats because it included a debt ceiling extension.
Later Tuesday, Schumer met with Senate Democrats and rejected the reconciliation bill as an option to tackle the debt limit.
“We do not have the luxury of using a drawn out, convoluted and risky process,” Schumer told reporters.
He added that Democrats can prevent default tomorrow with the procedural vote if Republicans “just get out of the damn way.”
Separately, McConnell said Tuesday that Democrats have had “plenty of time” to execute the debt ceiling increase and “have chosen not to do it.”
“Look, the debt ceiling needs to be addressed. The only question is who should address it,” McConnell told reporters, at their weekly press conference. “We laid out a path for two months here, that’s easily done. There’s plenty of time additionally this month to do the job, and I hope our friends on the other side will step up and take care of it.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a separate interview on CNBC on Tuesday that Democrats “can, at any time they want, raise the debt ceiling. They can do it using only Democratic votes under budget reconciliation.”
“There’s not going to be a default. Schumer knows that, Biden knows that, Pelosi knows that. But they want to play political games first,” he said.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday that Republicans are “trying to confuse and conflate the issue” of the debt limit.
“But the American people are smart. They know that when they get bills that they’ve decided to incur, they ought to pay them. And we ought to pay the bills,” he said. “The last thing this economy needs as we claw our way out of a pandemic is to send the whole economy into a tailspin.”