Oct 5, 2021
Senate Democrats Press Conference Transcript: Debt Ceiling Fight with GOP
Senate Democrats held a press conference on October 5, 2021. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Republicans should “get out of the way” of the vote on raising the debt limit. Read the transcript.
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Senator Schumer: (00:01)
We do not have the luxury of using a drawn out convoluted and risky process. We could prevent a catastrophic default with a simple majority vote tomorrow. If Republicans would just get out of the damn way, we could get this all done. We’re not asking them to vote to raise the debt ceiling. That’s what they asked us. That’s what McConnell asked for three months. Let Democrats vote for it. If they got out of the way, that’s just what could happen.
Senator Schumer: (00:31)
As pretty much everyone has warned that a first…
Senator Schumer: (00:41)
As pretty much everyone has warned, a first ever default on the national debt would be catastrophic for our economy and gravely harm Americans across this country. Again, we can avoid a debt ceiling crisis all together if the Republicans would just get out of the way. We’re not asking them to vote yes, just get out of the way.
Senator Schumer: (01:02)
I filed cloture on the House message that provides for a suspension of the debt ceiling until December of 2022, the Senate will hold that vote tomorrow. Once again, every Senator will face a choice. We can stop this Republican manufactured debt ceiling crisis in its tracks, or Republicans can keep driving our country ever closer to the first default in American history. It’s perfectly clear to everyone, everyone, that Democrats are working to prevent a default and Republicans are deliberately making it more likely to happen. Republicans have been offered multiple opportunities to take a step back and deescalate the crisis they’ve created, but each time the Republican leader has chosen to escalate it instead.
Senator Schumer: (01:54)
Last week, I offered a common sense proposal that would have addressed the debt ceiling on a bipartisan basis. Republicans voted instead to default. Then I proposed doing just what McConnell asked us to do, allow a simple majority vote, exactly what happened in the early 2000s, and what Republicans have been citing and saying they want again, but they blocked it. What else do they need to make it clear to everyone they’re the party of default? It’s so irresponsible. Unfortunately, sadly, and confoundingly too many Republicans seem proud of this. Proud of this moment where they’re pushing us to the edge of default and possible downgrade. Even now the credit rating agencies are saying there’s a possibility of downgrade way before the 18th, which would cost American consumers, American businesses, the American economy a lot. After the last downgrade, there were lasting effects for years.
Senator Schumer: (02:58)
Tomorrow’s vote is a chance for some Republican senators to show some independence from the extreme members of their conference who are running for president. I heard McConnell said, “Well, he can’t let us do what we want to do because a few Republicans could block it.” Wrong. All we need is 10 Republicans to vote with us and then none of them have to vote to raise the debt ceiling. It’s not a few Republicans blocking us. All we need is 10, because we’ll have all 50 on the cloture vote.
Senator Schumer: (03:29)
As I said yesterday, the Senate must send President Biden legislation to raise the debt ceiling before the end of the week. Downgrade is hovering over us. Democrats will do the responsible thing and vote tomorrow to prevent a default. It’s not too late, but it’s getting dangerously close. There’s still time. Still time for Republicans to get out of the way and allow this bill to pass with a simple majority vote. There’s still time for 10 Republicans to join us no matter what some of the extremists on the hard right think. Some of them, many people speculate, want us to default. If Republicans want to vote no tomorrow, if they want to really be the party of default, that’s their choice. We have an easy way out of this crisis, a simple majority vote. They can all vote no. Let them just get out of the way and let us have the vote. Senator Durbin.
Senator Durbin: (04:26)
Like many of you, I start each Senate day listening to Senator Mitch McConnell’s speeches on the floor. There are some recurring themes that we ought to think about this moment. The one that is always there is the fear of inflation. Sure, it’s a legitimate concern, but Mitch McConnell is particularly focused on inflation. What causes inflation? One of the things would certainly be if interest rates go up. What would cause the interest rates to go up? The uncertainty about America’s economic future and whether the full faith and credit of the United States can be trusted. By his very strategy of jeopardizing extending the debt ceiling, Mitch McConnell is fueling the fires of inflation in the American economy. We don’t know if today, while we consider political options, those who make the critical decisions will downgrade the United States and we’ll already be in the soup. If we finally come to our senses and Senator McConnell allows 10 Republicans to join us, or we do it by a simple majority vote, that still may not be enough to really stop the impact that I’ve already described.
Senator Durbin: (05:37)
The second thing he always says is, “We want to help American families.” Well, we’ve been told what his strategy on the debt ceiling will do to American families. Not only facing increased interest rates on their mortgages and on their credit cards, but having more unemployment across the United States at a time when we were desperately trying to get back on our feet. In addition to that, we know that if we jeopardize the government payments, critical payments to social security and veterans, it will damage families across the board.
Senator Durbin: (06:07)
The last thing that Senator McConnell says almost every day in his speech, “We want to hurt China. We’re in competition with China.” Do you think for a minute that the prospect of the United States defaulting on our debt gives us a stronger standing in the world compared to China, or a weaker standing? The answer is obvious. McConnell knows it. The advice to him is very simple. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. It’s time for us to do what America needs now.
Senator Schumer: (06:37)
Senator Murray: (06:39)
Well, thank you Senator Durbin. Right now, Democrats are working very hard on ways to strengthen our economy. We want to lower people’s costs for childcare and healthcare and education. We want to help people get back to work in good paying jobs and help our working families. We want to fend off the massive economic and personal cost of inaction on climate by dramatically cutting carbon emissions. In other words, Democrats are working towards a stronger, fairer American economy and that includes paying the bills, just like every family does. Republicans, once again, the party of no and the party that is now pushing us closer and closer to unprecedented economic sabotage. They were happy to help spend the money, especially on Trump administration tax cuts for huge corporations who didn’t need them, but now they refuse to pay the bills they were more than willing to rack up. They’re refusing no matter who gets hurt, or whether prices go up for our families, or whether social security recipients do not get the payments they earned through a lifetime of work.
Senator Murray: (07:53)
Like President Biden said, it is disgraceful, it is an embarrassment, and it is completely unnecessary because to recap, House Democrats voted to prevent default. President Biden is ready to sign a bill to prevent default. Senate Democrats have tried again and again to prevent default only to be blocked by Senate Republicans.
Senator Murray: (08:19)
Tomorrow, we’ll make Senate Republicans vote again on whether they’ll force a completely unnecessary economic crisis onto workers and families. Once again, they’ll have the chance to do the absolute bare minimum their job requires, just take the procedural step necessary to let Democrats vote to raise the debt limit like Republicans themselves have called for. It’s the absolute least Republicans can do. If they continue refusing to lift a finger, it will be indisputable, Democrats are here for the American economy, for workers, small businesses. Republicans, as my colleagues have said, will be the party of default. Thank you.
Senator Schumer: (09:05)
Senator Stabenow: (09:09)
Well, we’re here today to just reinforce over and over again the fact that Republicans are demanding that we raise the debt limit ourselves and we’re happy to do it. 50 votes, happy to do it. They claim they are the party of fiscal responsibility. Even today, they talk about how they are the party of fiscal responsibility. What is less responsible than running up a huge tab under president Trump and then sneaking out the back door without paying the bills, which is what they’re trying to do. Raising the debt limit today pays for the important programs we funded last year on a bipartisan basis in the middle of a pandemic.
Senator Stabenow: (09:53)
First, we passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, bipartisan basis. Then the important CARES Act, on a bipartisan basis. Then we passed a second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, on a bipartisan basis. Then in December we passed important COVID package again on a bipartisan basis. Every single one of those, President Trump signed. Every single one of them.
Senator Stabenow: (10:22)
Republicans know that defaulting on our debt would it be catastrophic for our economy, but they’re willing to play the riskiest possible political game anyway. What is that about? That’s the question to be asking them. Why would they do that? It’s time for them to step aside, to stop obstructing. We are willing to do the right thing and raise the debt limit with 50 votes. It’s time to get on the business of getting that done.
Senator Schumer: (10:54)
Questions. Yeah, I haven’t called on you in a while, Chad.
Thank you, I appreciate it. There’s a reason for that maybe, I don’t know.
Senator Schumer: (11:02)
Not that I’m aware of. If there’s one you should let me know.
Can you characterize in these con… I don’t want you to give up the state secrets here-
Senator Schumer: (11:11)
I would not.
Characterize the idea of bringing down the cost of the social spending bill, when maybe making a program balance for fewer years, the idea of… and that wrestling that’s going on among Democrats.
Senator Schumer: (11:24)
Yes. Look, we have to pass a strong reconciliation bill and we have to pass a [Biff 00:11:30] bill. There are some in our caucus who still want more than 3.5. The vast majority of our caucus, every one of them, voted for a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions that said 3.5, but everyone knows there’s going to have to be give and compromise. I think we all realize we’re going to have to come together and pass something. Just about everyone will be disappointed in some things, just about everyone will be pleased with some things, but we will get it done. Yes. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (12:02)
President Biden was asked a version of this question the other day, so I’ll ask you. As the majority leader of the US Senate, can you guarantee the US will not default when that deadline-
Senator Schumer: (12:09)
Ask Mitch McConnell. The bottom line is, it’s very simple. It’s on his shoulders. We are willing to cast the 50 votes ourselves. It’s up to him. All he has to do is get out of the way. Nope. Next.
Speaker 8: (12:26)
Will you cancel the next recess-
Senator Schumer: (12:26)
We’re going to stay here until we get this done. Next.
Speaker 9: (12:29)
Hi. If this vote on the debt ceiling tomorrow is blocked by Republicans, would you rule out changing the filibuster rule to enable a debt ceiling [crosstalk 00:12:37]?
Senator Schumer: (12:36)
Look, the best way to get this done is just for Republicans to get out of the way. None of them have to vote for debt ceiling. Let the 50 Democrats do it. That’s the best way to get it done. That’s what we’re working for tomorrow. Yes.
Speaker 10: (12:49)
Senator Schumer: (12:49)
You’ve got to speak out a little.
Speaker 10: (12:49)
Just back to your response on give and take on reconciliation, where do you think Democrats can give a little bit more to get to that [inaudible 00:13:00]?
Senator Schumer: (13:01)
I’m not going to negotiate in public. We had a very good meeting, speaker Pelosi, myself, the president’s people last night. We began getting into the nitty gritty of how we get this done and we are going to get it done. You know, we want to get all of it done by the 31st of October and we’re making good progress. I think Democrats of all different… The progressive folks, the more moderate folks all realize there’s going to have to be give on every side to get this done. I think we do. Yes.
Speaker 11: (13:29)
Are you opposed to… are all 50 Democrats opposed to reconciliation?
Senator Schumer: (13:33)
Reconciliation is a drawn out, convoluted and risky process with default and downgrade hovering over us. The best way to do it is the way we said. That’s what we’re telling leader McConnell and the American people we need to do. Yes. CNN. Tall CNN back there.
Speaker 12: (13:51)
Are you absolutely ruling out reconciliation?
Senator Schumer: (13:55)
Speaker 12: (13:56)
Our point, sir, is [inaudible 00:13:58] tomorrow, are you still absolutely ruling our reconciliation?
Senator Schumer: (14:02)
As I said, reconciliation is a drawn out, convoluted process. We’ve shown the best way to go. We are moving forward in that direction. Yes. Bolton, last one. Well, we’ll do Weissman and Bolton.
Speaker 13: (14:14)
Do you have any reaction to the report that Donald Trump wanted to announce his 2024 presidential campaign while all the stuff was going on in Afghanistan, and had to be talked out of by his advisors. How does that maybe impacting the debate here [crosstalk 00:14:25]?
Senator Schumer: (14:25)
Look, everyone knows my opinion of Donald Trump. I don’t think I have to comment any further on any of his actions at the moment.
Speaker 6: (14:31)
If you can get a time agreement with the Republicans, they obviously want to do reconciliation, if you could get at least a time agreement, could you go… would you do reconciliation?
Senator Schumer: (14:39)
The bottom line is, again, we’ve told you the best easiest way to go. It’s the quickest. It’s passed the House. It comes here. They allow us to all vote yes. It gets right to the president’s desk. A risk of downgrade, which is very real and who knows when it could occur, it could occur very soon, will be vanquished. That’s what we want to do. Thank you, everybody.