FederalSen. Cornyn Helps Make Way for $480 Billion Debt Ceiling Increase

Along with 10 other GOP senators, Sen. John Cornyn paved the way for Democrats to increase the debt ceiling by $480 billion.
October 8, 2021
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With a gesture of falling on his sword, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) cast his vote Thursday evening to end the filibuster on a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $480 billion, paving the way for Democrats to unanimously pass the measure.

Cornyn, along with 10 other Republicans in the U.S. Senate, ended the filibuster as the conclusion of weeks-long haggling over the debt ceiling between GOP and Democratic leadership in the chamber.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to Congress on September 28, warning lawmakers that the “Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by October 18.”

Republicans have expressed opposition to raising the debt ceiling, particularly as Democrats have pushed for a $3.5 trillion spending package that would funnel funding toward Democratic priorities like immigration and “tackling the climate crisis.”

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“Last July, Senator McConnell told our Democratic colleagues that as long as you’re going to continue to spend money in a purely partisan way, you’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling on your own,” said Cornyn in a press release. “Of course, they waited until the very last moment to do it.”

Though GOP leadership sought to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own, they ultimately gave in and lent a hand.

Given the 50-50 split between parties in the Senate and rules requiring a three-fifths majority to end debate on most legislation, known as the filibuster, there were few opportunities for the measure to pass through Congress without some support.

One method, however, known as reconciliation and used for budgetary issues, would only require a simple majority in the Senate.

Another way that could have moved the legislation through a simple majority would be by changing the rules to lower the threshold needed to end a filibuster, though such a change is opposed by Republicans currently in the minority as well as Democratic senators like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

But Democratic leadership wanted Republicans to join in raising the debt limit, as doing so would authorize the Department of the Treasury to borrow more money to pay for expenses to which the U.S. government has already committed — especially since members in both parties overwhelmingly supported a record of trillions of dollars in spending throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) finally capitulated to Democrats this week, proposing to raise the debt ceiling enough to keep the government from defaulting for the time being. The $480 billion is expected to stretch the funding the government needs through sometime in December.

Though Cornyn and some other members of the Senate GOP leadership voted to end the filibuster, they were unified in voting against the measure itself.

“Our Democratic colleagues want to continue spending more money, which they know that somebody is going to have to pay back at some time, without any plan or acknowledgement of their responsibility for increasing the debt,” said Cornyn.

“As part of the accountability that should go along with borrowing these huge sums of money and raising the debt limit, there needs to be a number stated. Our Democratic colleagues need to understand that they are ultimately going to have to bear responsibility for all this additional debt and spending.”

The other senator from the Lone Star State, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), voted against both ending the filibuster and the measure itself.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.