Politico

Vote-a-rama drama and the national debt

Nobody on Capitol Hill got much sleep this week.

The Senate passed its infrastructure bill, stayed up all night in a vote-a-rama and provided foreshadowing for the set of fights yet to come. As Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza put it this week: “Threat of a government shutdown? Possibility of America defaulting on its loans? Dust off that Blackberry, fire off a manual RT, and put on some LMFAO. It’s feeling very 2011.”

Lizza and POLITICO’s Jennifer Scholtes break down what’s ahead for Congress.

On the upcoming fight over raising the debt limit

“This is the biggest story of the fall. It’s major. And it’s going to affect every single major negotiation for months to come.

“The president’s legacy is on the line. He wants to move the two tracks forward. He wants to get to final enactment [the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion social spending plan]. And he doesn’t want the debt limit to gum it up. And all the while, the time bomb is ticking and nobody really knows when that default date is going to sneak up on us.” — Jennifer Scholtes

On Bernie Sanders’ $3.5 trillion budget plan

“Bernie Sanders has been saying that if Democrats can enact this $3.5 trillion plan, it will be the biggest thing that happened since the New Deal. And you don’t enact the biggest thing since the New Deal — in a 50-50 Senate, in a razor thin majority House — without a hell of a fight.

“So we saw this week, that vote-a-rama was a hell of a fight. That’s what Lindsey Graham told us that that was what’s going to happen, that they are going to fight it out. And the rest of this process is going to be just the same. And some of it will be cross party feuding, some of it will be intraparty feuding.

“There will be fights between progressives, moderates, people with niche interests that you didn’t even know were going to gum up the bill. And if they can do it and if it’s anywhere near a $3.5 trillion total, it will be giant. And it will be a giant pain to make it happen.” — Jennifer Scholtes

On the national debt

“We have $28 trillion dollars in debt as a nation and our waiver on being able to borrow has expired, it expired on July 31st. Right now, the Treasury Department is just trying scrap around, make sure that the money coming in matches the money going out until Congress acts. And Democrats have made a calculated decision to not include a debt limit remedy in the reconciliation process that they’re moving forward with to enact this three point five trillion dollar social spending plan.

“Republicans are saying, ‘You have the ability to solve this on your own. You’ve shown that you can enact major legislation without Republican votes. Knock yourself out. We’re not going to help you.’ And so far, you know this is a cliche, the classic game of political chicken — I put it in almost every story about this — but it really is. Who is going to flinch?

“When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer eventually brings the debt limit question to the floor, are more than 40 Republicans going to vote no and sink it and have the headlines be that the nation could default on its loans, throwing the economy into a catastrophe, and that happened because Republicans wouldn’t band together with Democrats to remedy the debt limit in the way that Democrats banded with Republicans when they were in control? So it’s unclear who’s going to flinch.” — Jennifer Scholtes

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