McConnell’s Debt-Ceiling Nonsense

Sen. Mitch McConnell speaks to the media on Dec. 4, 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to zero in on an egregious misstatement before it passes into the ether. Consider this gem from last Thursday.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the Senate to further perpetuate a myth about the debt ceiling. While discussing a bill that would permanently allow the president to raise the debt ceiling, McConnell had this to say:

By demanding the power to raise the debt limit whenever he wants by as much as he wants, he showed what he’s really after is assuming unprecedented power to spend taxpayer dollars without any limit at all.


Two points here. When the GOP nearly threw the country into default during the summer 2011 debt-ceiling standoff, the party contended that raising the debt ceiling encourages more spending. But that of course is not what the debt ceiling does. The debt ceiling does not permit future spending, but rather it deals with the debt accrued by past government spending—including the wild and unfunded spending of the previous Republican administration.

Second, even if this bill were to pass, the power to raise and spend money would still lie solely with Congress. That is in the Constitution: The executive branch can only spend as much money as Congress tells it to. Sen. McConnell knows all this, which is why he proposed last year the very idea President Obama endorsed this year.