POLITICO TOP STORY “Austerity is a very good thing,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday after announcing that he will propose legislation in the next few weeks to avert a default on the U.S. debt.
“I am not saying that we can’t have a debt-limit increase, but I think it’s important that we don’t go into a situation where we go into the fiscal cliff,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox News.
“Because I think we need to be careful that we do not cause a default.”
The Senate is set to debate a debt limit increase Thursday, but the legislation is expected to face stiff opposition from Republicans and a divided Democratic caucus, who are likely to support an extension, and the White House, which opposes the measure.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has become a popular figure in his home state, said the president, who has not been in the Senate since January, would be a crucial vote.
“He’s going to be on the floor to vote on a measure that I think is going to create an economic disaster in the country,” McConnell told Fox News, adding that Trump has made clear that he wants Congress to take up the issue.
McConnell has been leading a series of efforts to avoid a default since January as the country heads into its sixth month of recession.
But while he is pushing for an extension that would bring the nation back into surplus and reduce the debt, he has not said whether he will try to extend the country’s debt ceiling without Democratic support.
McConnell said that he has spoken with Senate Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, about the issue and that the goal of the legislation will be to avoid the crisis in the first place.
The legislation would also extend unemployment benefits and provide cash to workers.
“It’s a very tough one for the president to get through,” McConnell added.
The bill is the latest in a series McConnell has pushed in recent weeks that have included delaying the annual congressional recess until late September and limiting the number of public-employee pensions that workers could receive in the event of a default.
McConnell also has sought to address concerns that the country is on a path to defaulting on its debt.
“This is a country of two sides, and it’s going in the direction of default,” he said.
“The President has said repeatedly that he’s willing to take action, but it will require bipartisan support, and I think that’s what we need.”
While McConnell has sought more flexibility in his plan, he faces a tightrope act to keep the economy from spiraling out of control.
The country has been on a two-week recession in recent months.
Unemployment has surged and federal deficits have ballooned.
As a result, the economy has been shrinking at a slower rate than in any time in decades.
McConnell is pushing to maintain a budget surplus that would allow him to balance the budget, but he said that if the economy continues to grow at a snail’s pace, the debt will grow even more.
The debt has increased from $13.5 trillion to $16 trillion since the end of 2009, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
But that growth rate has slowed in recent years and is projected to decline in the coming years.
In recent weeks, Senate Democrats have raised concerns about the bill’s impact on the economy, noting that the $1 trillion-plus increase in unemployment benefits would make it harder for people to find jobs.
“I don’t think it is fair to say that people who are on unemployment are going to work less.
That’s not what we’re talking about,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Monday.
Schumer, who is also a member of the Budget Committee, added that the unemployment rate in the United States has risen to 7.4 percent, the highest in the world, but that it is not at the level it was in the 1990s and 2000s.
“We have to be very careful, very judiciously, not to take a huge increase in benefits and then be in default,” Schumer said.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D, Ill., also warned that if a default does occur, it could affect not just the economy but also the country.
“In my view, we should be very cautious about taking this unprecedented step and putting our economic future in jeopardy,” Durbine told Fox.
“But if that is the case, I think the country has to get on board with that.”