WASHINGTON - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sent President Joe Biden a scathing letter on Friday saying Democrats would have to find their own solution without his help next time the debt ceiling has been reached.
McConnell highlighted that enough Republican votes were provided to extend the government’s borrowing authority, claiming he "stepped up" when both sides were "pleading for leadership."
"I write to inform you that I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis," McConnell wrote.
The minority leader continued to claim that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer "had three months’ notice to handle one of his most basic governing duties. Amazingly, even this proved to be asking too much."
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the U.S. Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol Oct. 7, 2021 in Washington, DC.
The letter comes a day after the Senate dodged a U.S. debt disaster voting to extend the government’s borrowing authority into December and temporarily avert an unprecedented federal default that experts warned would devastate the economy and harm millions of Americans.
The vote of 50-48 in support of the bill to raise the government's debt ceiling by nearly a half-trillion dollars brought instant relief in Washington and far beyond. However, it provided only a reprieve. Assuming the House goes along, which it will, Republican and Democratic lawmakers will still have to tackle their deep differences on the issue once more before yearend.
That debate will take place as lawmakers also work to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year and as they keep up their bitter battling over Biden’s top domestic priorities — a bipartisan infrastructure plan with nearly $550 billion in new spending as well as a much more expansive, $3.5 trillion effort focused on health, safety net programs and the environment.
Easing the crisis at hand — a disastrous default looming in just weeks — McConnell, offered his support for a short-term extension of the government’s borrowing authority after leading solid GOP opposition to a longer extension.
He acted as Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that a default would disrupt government payments to millions of Americans and throw the nation into recession.
The GOP concession was not popular with some members of McConnell's Republican caucus, who complained that the nation's debt levels are unsustainable.
"I can't vote to raise this debt ceiling, not right now, especially given the plans at play to increase spending immediately by another $3.5 trillion," Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said shortly before the vote.
And Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the Democrats had been on "a path to surrender" on the process used to lift the debt cap, "and then, unfortunately, yesterday, Republicans blinked."
But Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was among those voting to advance the bill.
"I’m not willing to let this train go off the cliff," she said.
Congress has just days to act before the Oct. 18 deadline after which the Treasury Department has warned it will quickly run short of funds to handle the nation’s already accrued debt load.
The House is likely to return to approve the measure next week.
Republican leaders worked through the day to find the 10 votes they needed from their party to advance the debt limit extension to a final vote, holding a private huddle late in the afternoon. It was a long and "spirited" discussion in the room, said Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
McConnell allowed for an airing of all views and ultimately told the senators he would be voting yes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.