Joseph Zeballos-RoigWed, September 22, 2021, 2:43 PM·3 min readIn this article:

Mitch McConnell in Congress, Senate
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Congress. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • McConnell said “Democrats shouldn’t play Russian roulette” with the economy as his party refuses to help avert a default.
  • “Step up and raise the debt ceiling and cover all that you’ve been engaged in all year long,” he told reporters.
  • There are no signs the debt ceiling standoff will be resolved anytime soon.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are playing a dangerous game by not raising the debt ceiling to avoid a default on the US’s bills, even though it’s one he started.

“My advice to this Democratic government, the president, the House and Senate: don’t play Russian roulette with our economy,” he said at a Wednesday press conference. “Step up and raise the debt ceiling and cover all that you’ve been engaged in all year long.”

McConnell isn’t budging from his refusal to renew the nation’s ability to pay its bills, known as the debt ceiling. He’s vowing Senate Republicans won’t lend the support needed to pass a measure aimed at averting a federal default, even as he says he doesn’t want the US to do so. It may cause a financial meltdown and plunge the nation into another recession if Congress doesn’t act in time.

“If Mitch McConnell wants to say Democrats shouldn’t play Russian roulette with the economy, why is he the one that loaded the gun in the first place?” Zach Moller, economic policy director at the center-left Third Way think tank, told Insider. “He’s the one that put the slug in the gun and stuck it on the table.”

Democrats are insisting that Republicans must cooperate in raising the nation’s borrowing cap, as they did three times under the Trump administration. “This idea that Republicans are going to intentionally crater the economy to make some political point is so dangerous,” Sen. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut told Insider. “We can’t do anything on the debt ceiling without it being bipartisan.”

Democrats could lift the debt ceiling on their own using a standalone measure. But it would require an arduous, lengthy process to complete a pair of voting sessions known as vote-a-ramas – made even trickier as they’d have to approve the measure in both the House and Senate while holding a razor-thin majority.

The Treasury Department is employing special measures for the US to continue paying its bills, but those will be exhausted sometime next month. The House passed a measure on Tuesday to avert both a government shutdown and debt default on Wednesday evening, but Senate Republicans led by McConnell are poised to sink it in the upper chamber.

House Budget Chair John Yarmuth said Monday it could take “at least” two weeks for Democrats to lift the debt ceiling on their own. But his position shifted on Wednesday and he told reporters that his staff concluded there’s not enough time to get it done.

“Parliamentary obstacles prevent us from altering this reconciliation bill or addressing debt ceiling through reconciliation,” Yarmuth said in a statement to Insider. “The House passed legislation just last night to suspend the debt ceiling and keep the government open. The ball is now in Senator McConnell’s court.”

He went on: “If he doesn’t support this bill – or at least ensure it is not filibustered – our country will default and our government will shut down. The decision is now his.”

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