‘We folded like a cheap suit’: Republicans Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz blast GOP fold on debt limit

South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham tore into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans who voted with Democrats on a key motion that allowed a bill to increase the debt limit to advance Thursday. 

‘We folded like a cheap suit here in the 11th hour,’ Graham said Thursday night, after 11 Republicans led by McConnell joined Democrats on the motion, advancing a bill to put off a potential default date until early December. 

Hannity cast the move as a partisan capitulation. 

‘Why on earth would Republicans at this moment be helping the Democrats?’ he asked his guest.  

‘Well, we screwed up,’ Graham told him. 

‘Well, we screwed up,’ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News host Sean Hannity

‘For two months, we promised our base and the American people that we would not help the Democratic Party raise the debt ceiling so they could spend $3.5 to $5 trillion through reconciliation’ – a budget process Democrats are using. 

‘At the end of the day, we blinked. Two things have happened: We let our people down, and we made Democrats believe that we are all talk and no action.’

McConnell was joined by senior Republicans on the vote, including retiring senators like Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rob Portman of Ohio, as well as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.  

Graham cast the move as a betrayal of a promise not to help Democrats on the debt ceiling vote – a matter that is historically a lift for the party in power, but that sometimes advances with help from the minority.   

‘We made a promise, for two months, that we would make them do it without our help and we folded, and I hate that. We’re in a hole; we’ve got to dig out of this hole and we can. We shot ourselves in the foot tonight, but we will revisit this issue in December,’ he vowed. 

‘Why did Mitch McConnell do this and then twist the arms of … the 11 Republicans that caved?’ Hannity asked him.

Graham said McConnell told colleagues that if Republicans didn’t change their posture and allow an extension, Democrats would act to end the filibuster for debt limit legislation.

That was an idea Democrats were talking about openly – although Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) had come out against it, meaning Democratic leaders lacked the necessary votes. 

Cruz called his party's leadership 'weak-kneed'; Hannity called it a 'pretty sad and pathetic day'

Cruz called his party’s leadership ‘weak-kneed’; Hannity called it a ‘pretty sad and pathetic day’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who led a filibuster of legislation to raise the statutory debt limit, fumed: ‘Our leadership got cold feet, they got weak-kneed because they were afraid that Manchin and [Kyrsten] Sinema would agree to nuke the filibuster, which is what has been threatened over and over and over again.’

He complained to Hannity that Majority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer was doing a ‘victory dance’ because ‘Republican leadership blinked and gave in, we’ve now divided Republicans and created a mess and handed Schumer a victory.’

If we do this again in December we will shoot ourselves in the head as a party,’ said Graham.

Hannity called it a ‘pretty sad and pathetic day.’ He called it ‘the Republican party pre-Trump’ where ‘swamp creatures didn’t keep their word.’

He called it a ‘sad day for the Republican Party. It’s why I’m not a Republican.’    

On Thursday night, Manchin confronted Schumer on the Senate floor over his speech attacking Republicans for not assisting more in raising the debt ceiling.

Manchin sat behind Schumer as the Senate Majority Leader spoke, burying his face in his hands as Schumer blasted Republicans for playing a ‘dangerous and risky partisan game’ with the nation’s abiity to pay its bills and not default on its debt.

The Democrat from West Virginia stood up midway through Schumer’s remarks and moved to another part of the chamber. Later, he came back to speak to his fellow Democratic senator. Republican Senators John Thune and Mitt Romney also confronted Schumer on his remarks, with Romney advising Schumer to be more ‘graceful.’

After the spectacle on the Senate floor, which all took place on C-SPAN’s cameras, Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill that he didn’t think Schumer’s speech was ‘appropriate.’

‘[Schumer] felt charged up and he and I had good conversation,’ Manchin said. ‘We have to de-weaponize, you can’t be playing politics.’

He went on to add: ‘I’m sure Chuck’s frustrated but that was not a way to take it out. We just disagree. I’d done it differently.’

But Manchin added Republicans were just as guilty at playing politics. ‘It’s just civility is gone. I’m not going to be part of getting rid of it. I’m going to try to bring it back and I speak out when I see someone.’

Senator Joe Manchin (background) buried his head in his hands as Senator Chuck Schumer blasted Republicans for not assisting more with debt ceiling

Senator Joe Manchin (background) buried his head in his hands as Senator Chuck Schumer blasted Republicans for not assisting more with debt ceiling

Schumer’s remarks that sparked senators’ fury 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor Thursday night to blast Republicans for not assisting more with raising the debt ceiling.

Here are his remarks that sparked fury, causing Senators Joe Manchin, John Thune and Mitt Romney to confront him: 

‘Republicans played a dangerous and risky partisan game and I am glad that their brinksmanship did not work for the good of America’s families, for the good of our economy. 

Republicans recognize in the future they should, that they should approach fixing the debt limit in a bipartisan way. What is needed now is a long term solution so we don’t go through this risky drama every few months, and we hope Republicans will join in enacting a long term solution to the debt limit in December. 

We’re ready to work with them. Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans insisted they wanted a solution to the debt ceiling, but said Democrats must raise it alone. But going through a drawn out convoluted and risky reconciliation process that was simply unacceptable to my caucus, and yesterday Senate Republicans finally realized that this was something is not going to work. 

I thank very much, thank my Democratic colleagues. We’re all showing our unity in solving this Republican manufacturered-crisis. Despite immense opposition for Leader McConnell and members of his conference, our caucus held together, and we pulled our country’s back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over. 

This is a temporary but necessary and important fix. I appreciate that at the end of the day we were able to raise the debt limit without a convoluted and unnecessary reconciliation process that until today the Republican leader claimed was the only way to address the debt limit. 

Let me say that again: Today’s vote is proof positive that the debt limit can be addressed without going through the reconciliation process, just as Democrats have been saying for months. 

The solution is for Republicans to either join us in raising the debt limit, or stay out of the way.’

Matters came to a head after the Senate voted to end debate and pass a bill to increase the debt ceiling for less than two months on Thursday evening, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown and the federal government’s first-ever debt default. 

First up was a vote to suspend debate on raising the debt ceiling, where 10 Republican votes were needed for a 60-vote majority. Eleven GOP senators did so – Mitch McConnell, Ky., John Cornyn, Texas, Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, John Thune, S.D., Susan Collins, Maine, John Barrasso, Wyo., Rob Portman, Ohio, Roy Blunt, Mo., Richard Shelby, La., Shelley Moore Capito, W. Va. and Sen. Mike Rounds.  

The vote was 61-38.

Next, the Senate voted to pass the bill to raise the debt limit, 50-48. The House is expected to pass the bill next week. 

Schumer elebrated the deal as a ‘temporary but necessary fix.’ 

He and McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, held talks through the night on Wednesday as they hammered out the details of an arrangement to increase the nation’s borrowing limit ahead of an October 18 deadline.

The deal will hike the debt limit by $480 billion, which is what the Treasury Department says it needs to get the nation to Dec. 3. The current debt limit is $28.4 trillion.

Schumer hammered Republicans in his speech after the vote.  

‘Republicans played a risky and partisan game, and I am glad their brinkmanship didn’t work,’ Schumer said. 

‘Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans insisted they wanted a solution to the debt ceiling, but said Democrats must raise it alone by going through a drawn-out, convoluted and risky reconciliation process,’ he continued. 

Romney said Schumer should have been more ‘graceful’ in his remarks.  

‘There’s a time to be graceful and there’s a time to be combative, and that was the time for for grace,’ he explained to reporters after. 

Thune was also angry. 

‘It was an incredibly partisan speech after we helped him solve the problem,’ Thune said of Schumer’s remarks.  

There was a breakout of GOP intra-party fighting earlier when Senate leadership reportedly made the case that senators shouldn’t filibuster, allowing the deal to pass with a 51-vote threshold and preventing any Republicans from having to sign on. 

A number of Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, were against that,  forcing 10 GOP senators to vote to end debate before the final vote of the bill.   

The deal will keep the United States in business for the next two months. McConnell took credit for it happening. 

‘The majority didn’t have a plan to prevent default. So we stepped forward,’ he said in remarks on the Senate floor earlier on Thursday.   

The deal prevented the government defaulting on its debt, which has never happened in modern American history. If action wasn’t taken, America would stop paying its bills on October 18, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned, an action that would ruin the country’s credit rating, hit Americans in their pocket books and rattle stock markets around the world.  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he and Mitch McConnell reached a deal to extend the nation's debt limit until December

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell took credit for the deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) announced he and Mitch McConnell (right) reached a deal to extend the nation’s debt limit until December

Not all Republicans were happy about the way the legislative process played out. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ahead of the vote said the GOP shift ‘significantly hurts the credibility’ of the conference.

‘Sometimes in a poker game, a bluff wins the pot,’ Cruz said. 

‘In the game of chicken, Chuck Schumer won this game of chicken.’

Trump, moments ahead of the vote, urged Republicans to vote against it.

‘Republican Senators, do not vote for this terrible deal being pushed by folding Mitch McConnell. Stand strong for our Country. The American people are with you!’

The debt ceiling was repeatedly suspended under Trump.  

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham already said he was worried letting Democrats through with a simple majority vote ‘would be capitulation.’

‘If Democrats want an expedited process to use reconciliation to raise the debt limit they can have it,’ he said. ‘However, if Republicans intend to give Democrats a pass on using reconciliation to raise the debt limit – now or in the future – that would be capitulation.’  

Republican Senator John Cornyn said earlier that leadership was working through GOP concerns. 

‘We’ll have a robust conversation about the wisdom of that but any single senator can force a delay and force us to go through the motions, but it won’t change the outcome,’ Cornyn said. ‘By objecting to an expedited procedure, it does force Republicans to come up with the 10 votes to get to the 60, which strikes me as not a great idea.’

He noted that ‘sometimes you have to do things that you’re not excited about.’  

Other Republican senators – such as Rick Scott and Josh Hawley said they wouldn’t object an agreement that included a quick vote on the deal but would vote ‘no’ on the agreement.

Pressure was on for the Senate to act. The House had passed legislation that would suspend the debt ceiling until December 2022, after the midterm election, a proposal that Republicans roundly rejected.

President Joe Biden added his weight to the talks, convening a meeting of his Cabinet officials and top business leaders at the White House on Wednesday to urge action.

Biden warned that default could trigger a national security crisis and held the risk of tanking the stock market and wiping out retirement savings. 

‘It’s about paying for what we owe, and preventing catastrophic events,’ Biden said, comparing impact to a ‘meteor heading our way.’

He spoke soon after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued his own warning.  

‘If the United States defaults, it would undermine the economic strength on which our national security rests,’ he said.

‘It would also seriously harm our service members and their families because, as Secretary, I would have no authority or ability to ensure that our service members, civilians, or contractors would be paid in full or on time.’

Once the vote on the debt ceiling is dispatched, the Senate can pivot to Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget package of social programs. 

In making the offer on the debt ceiling, McConnell backed down from the Republicans’ hardline position and offered a short-term extension of the debt limit through December.  

But he made a caveat – Democrats must put a price tag on raising the debt limit and not extend it to a certain date. 

And he did not lift the Repubican blockade of a longer-term increase. McConnell repeated his demands that Democrats use the complicated and time-consuming procedure known as reconciliation for a long term extension. 

Republicans want Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by a specific number and filibustered a House-passed bill that would suspend the debt limit through December 2022 – after the midterm election.  

The GOP, in turn, are then likely to use that number against Democrats in the midterm elections as they try to take control of Congress.

Progressive independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Democrats accepted the deal because ‘Mitch McConnell finally saw the light’ in proposing a solution that could pass.

‘There would have been a global economic collapse if in fact the wealthiest nation on earth did not pay its debts,’ Sanders said. ‘We’re going to pay our debts. We have two months to figure it out.’ 

The light in the cupola of the Capitol Dome is illuminated, indicating that work continued in Congress overnight on Wednesday as Schumer and McConnell hammered out a deal

The light in the cupola of the Capitol Dome is illuminated, indicating that work continued in Congress overnight on Wednesday as Schumer and McConnell hammered out a deal

While the deal does buy time, it also gives a December deadline, which would be around the same time Congress is facing a deadline to fund the government and stave off a shutdown. 

It also puts a band aid on the debt issue as Democrats try to pass Biden’s ambitious social agenda, which Republicans oppose and some moderate Democrats decry as too expensive. 

However, Democrats said they will not bend on McConnell’s demands that the majority party use reconciliation to extend the borrowing limit by a year or more.

‘I think it’s great that (McConnell’s) folded and we’re gonna move our agenda and we’re gonna take care of the debt ceiling and then we’re going to go on and pass infrastructure,’ said Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of illinis.

‘We’re not gonna do reconciliation,’ she said, which other Democratic senators echoed.

Other Democrats painted McConnell’s offer as a win.  

‘McConnell caved,’ said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday.   

Some Democrats didn’t like the offer.

‘It’s bulls***,’ Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon.

President Biden is pushing Republicans to let Democrats raise the debt limit

President Biden is pushing Republicans to let Democrats raise the debt limit

But with the clock ticking to October 18th – the day the Treasury Department said it will run out of money and have to default – Democrats were running out of options.

They suffered another blow Wednesday when Senator Joe Manchin made it clear he opposes changing the Senate rules to bypass the legislative filibuster in order to raise the debt ceiling.

‘I’ve been very very clear where I stand on the filibuster. Nothing changes,’ Manchin told reporters outside of his Senate office. 

Some Democratic senators wanted to go ‘nuclear’ – a legislative move that would allow them to bypass the filibuster, the rule that requires 60 votes to advance legislation in the Senate.

It takes a majority of 51 votes to use the ‘nuclear option’ and, in the 50-50 Senate Schumer would need every one of his Democrats on board plus Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie.  

Senator Joe Manchin opposes changing the Senate rules to bypass the legislative filibuster in order to raise the debt ceiling

Senator Joe Manchin opposes changing the Senate rules to bypass the legislative filibuster in order to raise the debt ceiling

Manchin has been clear he opposes getting rid of the filibuster but, on Wednesday, he clarified he would oppose removing it in the case of a single piece of legislation – in this case the raising of the debt ceiling. 

He also implored Schumer and McConnell to come together and find a way out of the legislative mess. 

‘I implore them to engage, start working, work this out. This should not be a crisis,’ he said. 

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