Sen. Lindsey Graham said the GOP had been “shot in the back” over a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
The deal between Senate leaders allows Democrats to raise the debt ceiling with a party-line vote.
Graham reportedly told his colleagues that Trump would be “engaged on this issue.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday launched a blistering attack on GOP congressional leaders, saying at a closed-door party lunch that they’d put Republicans in a position to get “shot in the back” over a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, The Hill reported.
Congress is doing procedural jujitsu to lift the US’s borrowing cap for already accrued debts in order to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts and triggering a global financial crisis.
After months of pledging that no Republicans would help Democrats raise the ceiling, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell brokered a deal with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to enable Senate Democrats to do so with a party-line vote. Such machinations are needed because the upper chamber is divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker.
A senator who attended the lunch told The Hill that Graham said the deal “led them on a charge up a hill and they were getting shot in the back.” Other senators in the room told the news outlet that while it wasn’t clear whether Graham was specifically blaming McConnell, the South Carolina Republican disapproved of McConnell’s handling of the standoff.
The senator who was at the lunch also told The Hill that Graham, an ally and confidant of former President Donald Trump, said that “the president is going to be engaged on this issue” when it comes time for the 2022 midterm elections and that those who supported McConnell’s deal would face Trump’s wrath.
“I think this is a mistake, but we’ll see what happens,” Graham told reporters after the lunch, according to The Hill. “We’ve been telling our Republican base for four months, ‘[Democrats] are spending money by themselves, they should raise the debt ceiling by themselves through reconciliation.'”
Trump has railed against McConnell for paving the way for Democrats to raise the cap, insulting the Republican leader as a “Broken Old Crow” and excoriating him for not using the debt ceiling as leverage to block Democrats’ $1.75 trillion social-spending package.
“And we have a thing called the debt ceiling, and this morning I hear he gave it up,” Trump said in an interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday. “He gave it up for practically nothing. He could have used the debt-ceiling card. As an example, he did a couple of things. He gave them a two-month extension to get their act together, and they got their act together.”
Trump added: “The debt ceiling is psychological. This is not psychological. This is fact. This will destroy our country, the fabric of the country as we know it.”
A bill that the House passed on Tuesday would create a one-time exemption to the Senate filibuster to allow for a simple-majority vote on raising the debt ceiling. The bill also contains a provision that would postpone scheduled cuts to Medicare.
The measure, which the Senate is set to take up on Thursday on a compressed timeline for debate, requires at least 10 Republicans’ votes to pass. If the Senate passes the bill and President Joe Biden signs it into law, it would pave the way for Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own in a second bill.
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