I’ve done my best to be understanding of the tactic that Democratic leaders are taking by trying to tamp down any movement toward impeachment. But Monday’s budget and debt ceiling agreement really makes you wonder if the Democratic congressional leadership has completely lost the plot. The agreement is for $2.7 trillion in spending over the next two years with $50 billion of additional spending above the current baseline next year. Spending increases will be split between defense and domestic spending. In addition, the agreement also ends the sequester, which was part of the budget deal in 2011, and extends the debt ceiling until July, 2021. The agreement still has to be passed by the House and the Senate and then signed by Trump but it appears that the votes are there on both sides of the aisle to get it done.
Obviously, increasing domestic spending and avoiding the spending cuts that would have been triggered by the sequester are things Democrats can support. And the $2.7 trillion is merely the top line budget number. There will still be partisan battles of how that money is allocated in the 12 individual spending bills that make up the total budget and Democrats can and will fight for their priorities in those budget battles.
But the capitulation on the debt ceiling is frankly unfathomable. Pelosi and Schumer must know, or at least pretend to believe, that the Democratic candidate in 2020 has a significant chance to beat Donald Trump. They must also know that holding the House is also a strong possibility but that retaking the Senate will be a serious challenge. Assuming Republicans do hold the Senate, by setting the debt ceiling to be hit in July, 2021, the Democratic leaders today have virtually guaranteed that the Democratic president will face another debt limit squeeze from the GOP Senate just six months after inauguration, in the middle of the first and historically most productive year in a presidency. In essence, they are potentially kneecapping their own president at the height of his or her power in advance.
Incredibly, Democratic leaders apparently actually believe that McConnell would not hold the debt ceiling hostage if there is a Democratic president in 2021. This is simply mind-boggling and shows that the Democratic leadership still has no concept about the severity of the existential threat to out democracy that the current incarnation of the Republican party, with Donald Trump as its standard bearer, actually is.