Democrats Plan to 'Save' McCarthy If Republicans Revolt Over Debt Ceiling, but They're Missing the Point

AP Photo/Nathan Howard

Kevin McCarthy heads back to the White House today for more negotiations on the debt ceiling, joining President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a conversation that could have a major national impact.


It is pretty telling that the one major talking point of the left is that “Default is not an option,” which Schumer has been saying repeatedly of late. The flaw in that talking point is that the Republicans already passed a bill that would not lead to default.

So, as I’ve said a time or two before, this is a problem for Democrats to solve: How do they stand firm without being seen as more extreme than the GOP?

If the talking point is just “No default,” then negotiating with the Republicans is easy. But if the goal is really “No cuts,” then they have a problem. But they seem to think that they can get McCarthy to cave or they think that they can negotiate down so far that conservatives in the Republican Caucus will revolt.

That’s what they’re telling POLITICO, anyway.

A small group of moderate Democratic lawmakers has quietly reassured its House GOP counterparts that it can help protect McCarthy’s gavel if his right flank revolts over a debt agreement, according to two people familiar with the discussions. If conservatives responded to a McCarthy-Biden deal by forcing a full House vote on ousting the California Republican, Democrats say they have enough members to help block it — keeping him in power.

“We’ll protect him if he does the right thing,” said one of the House Democrats involved in the talks, who requested anonymity because of the ongoing debt negotiations. That Democrat added that McCarthy himself has been briefed on the discussions.


McCarthy’s office told reporters that the claim that McCarthy could rely on Democrats to keep his job was “garbage.”

“The Speaker has never heard of this garbage, has zero interest in it, and thinks Democrats would be better off focusing on doing the jobs they were elected to do,” McCarthy spokesperson Mark Bednar said in a statement.

There’s something that the Democrats are missing though: Unless McCarthy caves and agrees to a clean debt ceiling increase, the Republicans feel like they’ve already won. They have brought the Democrats to the table to negotiate, and they do so with a united caucus not only in the House but apparently in the Senate, as well.

APTOPIX Congress
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

That’s going to completely undermine the idea that McCarthy needs saving unless he’s so foolish that he thinks he can get away with caving so close to the finish line. Republicans have pretty much taken into account that they may not win the PR war in this, but they will get something out of the debt ceiling fight.

They also know that Biden can’t risk looking like he’s unwilling to come to the table with Republicans after years of calling on Republicans to come to the table with him, but he also can’t leak so weak as to cave on something he’s been saying is non-negotiable (a clean debt ceiling increase).


So that’s why they’re looking at something as absurd as using the 14th Amendment to declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional. It’s an end-run around the negotiations so they can say they got it done and they don’t have to cut a deal with Republicans to do so.

But that would also be a victory for the Republicans. There’s really no winning for the Democrats here, yet they think it’s McCarthy who will need saving when all this is said and done.


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