Republican campaigns will harshly criticize Democratic lawmakers who vote to raise the debt ceiling in the 2022 midterm elections, the leader of the GOP's Senate campaign arm said.
"They're going to get held accountable for it," Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NBC News' Sahil Kapur in an interview on Thursday.
When asked if the debt ceiling issue will be a subject of Republican campaign ads attacking Democrats, Scott responded, "Oh, you better believe it." He added that Republicans also plan to criticize Democrats if they succeed in passing the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that's currently making its way through Congress.
Members of both political parties have voted to raise the debt ceiling in past years. Republicans in Congress voted to increase the debt limit three times during former President Donald Trump's tenure.
During Trump's time in office, the United States added $7.8 trillion to the national debt. The GOP's 2017 tax cuts, which largely benefited the wealthiest Americans, will add roughly $1.9 trillion to federal deficits over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Since President Joe Biden assumed office, however, Republicans lawmakers have started using what was once a routine procedural vote as a cudgel to hold the U.S. economy hostage for their short-term political gains.
The federal government will hit its so-called "debt ceiling" sometime in October. If Congress doesn't act to raise the debt ceiling, funding for U.S. government agencies, programs and services will lapse. Further, the Treasury Department would default on the United States' debt, sending the country into an immediate recession that could wipe out 6 million American jobs and trillions of dollars in household wealth.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who voted to raise the debt ceiling just two years ago — has said Republicans won't vote to continue funding the government this time around.
But when Trump was president, McConnell argued that not raising the debt ceiling would be catastrophic for the country.
"I certainly don't think any Senators are rooting for a debt limit crisis that could put our full faith and credit at risk," McConnell said in 2019. "That means every one of our colleagues should actually vote for it."
McConnell is now going so far as to block the debt ceiling bill from an up-or-down vote and has vowed to filibuster the vote. He also wants Democrats to use a more complicated Senate procedure called budget reconciliation to raise the borrowing limit just with Democratic votes.
This decision has little to do with actual governance, and everything to do with scoring political points against Democrats — no matter the cost to Americans. Scott himself said this will be the GOP's playbook ahead of 2022: to hammer Democrats in ads for increasing the debt.
Still, it's unclear how effective Scott's strategy will be.
Polls have shown that 52 percent of Americans support Democrats' wide-ranging spending plan, which would make child care more affordable; give American workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave; lower the eligibility age for Medicare recipients; and add dental, vision, and hearing benefits to existing Medicare plans.
The debt limit, by contrast, is not a top concern among American voters.
An Axios/Ipsos poll from August found that "government budget and debt" ranked sixth among the most important issues for voters, behind the COVID-19 pandemic, political extremism, climate change, crime, and health care.
And a Gallup poll from August found just two percent of Americans saying that the "federal budget deficit/federal debt" is the "most important problem facing the country today."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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