How Schumer and McConnell Reached the Debt Deal – .

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How Schumer and McConnell Reached the Debt Deal – .


“It’s so different from him. I’m really glad he did, ”Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Said of McConnell. “What’s the old saying? A blooming rose doesn’t make a spring. But I’ll take what we can get.

McConnell “feels, in this circumstance at least, that they both worked in good faith,” agreed Senate Minority Whip John Thune (RS.D.). “The fact that they spoke should be seen by most as a positive development. “

The debt deal follows deals between Senate leaders to fund the government, complete a defense bill, pass a new infrastructure law, and collaborate on a competitiveness bill. And it could mark the culmination of Schumer and McConnell’s relationship. That says as much about the two belligerent leaders as it does about the state of the Senate, which now stands leagues from the days when the two party leaders met regularly.

Schumer’s tenure as majority leader began this year with McConnell’s refusal to give him an organizational resolution to lead the Senate for weeks, the first in a series of challenges from McConnell to the leadership of Schumer from a 50-50 Senate. But nothing rivaled the stalemate McConnell initiated this summer when he pledged that no Republican would vote to raise the debt limit.

The fact that the dispute ends with a deal between Schumer and McConnell to deal with the issue after mid-session is simply shocking to many in the Senate, given McConnell’s wishes not to help Democrats. Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) helped grease the wheels, speaking to McConnell on several occasions and once visiting Schumer and the GOP leader back to back.

“I’m encouraged,” Manchin said on Wednesday after complaining all year that the brash New Yorker and taciturn Kentuckian weren’t talking enough. “We just have to work together. “

Some would like to see more. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) suggested to the White House that President Joe Biden regularly welcome congressional leaders to both chambers for weekly discussions, according to a source close to her request. It shows no signs of happening.

Discussions between McConnell and Schumer over the debt ceiling have been so delicate that even most senators have experienced an information blackout. While lawmakers viewed the mid-November talks as a positive sign, neither McConnell nor Schumer informed their management team of the details until Tuesday. Hours later, the House approved a plan that allows Senate Democrats to raise the debt ceiling without help from Republicans. The Senate will deal with it on Thursday.

At first, congressional leaders wanted to incorporate the debt limit into the annual defense policy bill. After the second meeting with McConnell, Schumer warned Pelosi that the main option at the time, combining the debt limit with a defense bill, would only work if the House sent in the legislation by December 7. Opposition from GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy put an end to this, so leaders in Congress instead built the debt limit into legislation preventing cuts to medicare.

The deal gives leaders the chance to save face with their respective caucuses. Schumer can say Democrats can now fully focus on securing Biden’s agenda and have resisted pressure from the GOP to use the often convoluted process known as reconciliation to fix the problem. During his talks with McConnell, Schumer reassured his members that he would not deviate from that position, according to a Democratic senator.

McConnell, meanwhile, can say Democrats themselves lifted the debt limit and voted for an increase of around $ 2 trillion, potential fodder for the GOP’s mid-term campaign announcements. . It also suppresses a Democratic argument to change the legislative obstruction after the majority party threatened to change the rules regarding the debt ceiling.

The politics for McConnell are more complicated. While he’s confident he has the 10 Republican votes needed to pass the measure, he won’t get the unanimous support Schumer receives from Democrats in Thursday’s critical procedural vote. After his party unanimously blocked an increase in the debt ceiling in September, the GOP enters Thursday’s split vote.

“It’s a terrible deal,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “I don’t think Republicans should be complicit in Democrats’ reckless spending. “

And Democrats are wondering why this deal was not reached sooner to avoid months of drama. Throughout the process, Pelosi mostly relied on Schumer because the Senate has always been the problem. But House Democrats say the fight between Schumer and McConnell forced them to walk the plank and vote on debt ceiling legislation five times, Democratic sources say.

The likely response to the delay comes down to McConnell’s initial intransigent stance and Schumer’s refusal to comply with his demands. In September, Schumer accused McConnell of “weaving a story, a web of subterfuge, deception and glaring contradiction” on the debt ceiling. McConnell in turn wrote a letter to Biden in October after helping to raise the debt ceiling for two months, referring to a speech by Schumer as a “tantrum” that “summed up and escalated a pattern of ‘angry incompetence’.

But recently, leaders have used a much more conciliatory tone. Schumer said on Wednesday that he and the GOP leader had had “fruitful, honest and good discussions” regarding the debt limit, while McConnell said that he and Schumer “had come to a conclusion which I think, worked for both parties ”. This continued a fading pattern of personal animosity, for the time being.

When members of McConnell’s caucus threatened to temporarily shut down the government on President Joe Biden’s vaccine tenure or delay the Defense Policy Bill, Schumer chose to single out individual members rather than blame McConnell for their actions. Still, no one expects the good vibes between the two leaders to last.

With the debt limit sidelined, Democrats and Republicans will focus on Biden’s social spending bill – and what the two leaders have to say about each other’s priorities is unlikely to be pretty.

“Robert C. Byrd once said that the Senate is a place where you can work with someone someday,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of McConnell’s top MPs, “and fight them tooth and nail the next day. . ”

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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