By Jaxson K.R. (‘25)
America is the only country to have never defaulted on its debts. But right now, we are closer than ever before in American history to doing so. Not raising the ceiling means that the government will not be able to borrow additional money to fund its programs. If the debt ceiling is not raised and the government is not funded by early December, it will have to withhold the many pensions and paychecks of government workers and the military. The value of the US dollar could potentially fall, resulting in a deterioration or complete freeze of the USD’s universal status over the global economy, which will most likely cause a recession. Additionally, it could crash markets, raise interest rates, and severely (and possibly permanently) delay government funding to American households. After doing the bare minimum by delaying the vote until December, Republicans and Democrats still have not taken the initiative to prevent all of this from happening. Here’s what that could mean.
Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, has expressed the opinion that the Democrats are able to raise the debt ceiling by themselves and that he doesn’t want to offer support if it’s not needed, but this does not show the whole picture. Democrats could, in theory, raise the debt ceiling without Republican support, but this would require a completely unified Democrat coalition. The Democrats do not have this right now, as Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are currently not on board with the debt limit right now. Sinema has given almost no information to the press about her position on this topic so far. Manchin has said previously that he is not necessarily opposed to raising the ceiling, but disproves of the methods the Democrats would use to do so without Republican support. The process they would be forced to use, called budget reconciliation, requires very lengthy votes and other such amendments; it is very difficult to tell whether this long procedure could be finished before the deadline.
Regardless of party lines, this debt limit needs to be raised to avoid a financial catastrophe. So why don’t the Democrats do it by themselves, as Senator McConnell says they could? The Wall Street Journal reports that the Democrats have said this issue isn’t part of one party or one bill that should be denied like the infrastructure bill, which some Republicans and conversative Democrats have tied to the issue of the debt ceiling. In the eyes of these politicians, raising the ceiling is like giving the Biden Administration the green light to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure and a domestic agenda, which, again, the Republican party is opposed to.
So what’s going on at Capitol Hill right now? Two parties shift the responsibility of meeting the basic needs to not default on our debts back and forth to each other. two unpredictable senators remain undecided on whether to vote on their party lines. And a clock, methodically ticking down, gets precariously closer to the deadline of what Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said would cause “irreparable damage” to the economy.
Sources for this article are hyperlinked throughout.