Politico distorts story of supposed “back-and-forth” between McConnell and Biden on debt ceiling

Article bemoans that “they're not even trying to negotiate.” Meanwhile, McConnell openly says, “We have no list of demands.”

Politico continues to cover up the unprecedented and dangerous action of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Senate Republicans filibuster against an increase to the debt ceiling, by instead characterizing it as a breakdown in the legislative process involving both McConnell and President Joe Biden.

Mainstream media coverage of Republican obstruction on the debt ceiling has been largely bad, characterizing it as a “game of chicken,” a “political game,” or the doings of “both parties,” and overlooking the real dangers involved. The Washington Post has previously reported on the potential economic consequences of a default: “Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, found that a prolonged impasse over the debt ceiling would cost the U.S. economy up to 6 million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate surging to roughly 9 percent from around 5 percent.”

Politico ran an article on Monday titled “McConnell reactivates his connection to Biden — with a sharp debt warning.” The sub-headline declared: “The two leaders have long bragged about their close working relationship. Now, at perhaps the most critical time, they're not even trying to negotiate.”

The article then reported on a letter McConnell had sent Biden, framing it that McConnell had “prodded the president to talk his party into raising the debt ceiling without the GOP, the first step in what may become a complicated back-and-forth.” However, the full letter that Politico obtained even contained an illuminating line. “Republicans’ position is simple. We have no list of demands,” McConnell wrote, reiterating that they had said since mid-July that Democrats would have to raise the debt ceiling by themselves.

And yet, in its statements that Democrats and Republican leaders are “not even trying to negotiate” and that the process may be a “complicated back-and-forth,” Politico made it seem as if both Biden and McConnell were at fault. But how is one side supposed to negotiate when the other side says repeatedly that it has no demands — when there is no “back-and-forth,” but the other side is simply obstructing at each step of the way?

Instead, the article legitimized McConnell’s gotcha points about “Biden’s past opposition to debt increases while in the minority,” and highlighting McConnell’s argument: “The president’s party had to take responsibility for a policy agenda which you opposed. Your view then is our view now.”

This summary left out the key detail that those votes McConnell cited from 2003, 2004, and 2006 were not accompanied by any Democratic filibusters. This means that Biden and the congressional Democratic leadership are indeed asking for the same treatment now as they gave Republicans back then: for the majority party to vote to raise the debt ceiling and the minority party to not actively obstruct the path to get there.