Mitch McConnell Accuses Democrats of 'Playing Politics' as GOP Blocks Bill to Stop Shutdown

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has accused the Democrats of "playing politics" for rejecting a GOP proposal he said could avoid a looming government shutdown, as a game of brinkmanship between the parties threatens a fiscal crisis.

On Monday, no Republicans advanced the Democratic measure to fund the government through December 3 and suspend the debt ceiling until the end of 2022. It has raised the pressure on Congress to pass a bill to avoid a partial shutdown on Friday.

But after a vote tally 48-50, far short of the 60 votes needed to pass, the Kentucky senator said the Democrats were at fault because they had known about the GOP's opposition to raising or suspending the debt ceiling for two months, but proceeded with the vote anyway.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol September 27, 2021 in Washington, D.C. He has criticized Democrats for rejecting a "clean bill" that could stop a government shutdown. Drew Angerer/Getty

McConnell had told the Senate floor that Republicans would back a nearly identical temporary spending package that did not increase the debt ceiling, although this was rejected by Democrats.

He said that the Senate could advance such a bill "if the Democrats will let us." He added that the GOP had been "willing to work together to keep the government open, we are not willing to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling while they write a reckless taxing and spending spree of historic proportions behind closed doors."

But after Republicans blocked the bill, McConnell pointed the finger at the Democrats.

"Tonight Senate Democrats blocked a clean bill to fund the government. They had an opportunity to take a bipartisan step toward guaranteeing there'll be no shutdown but instead they are playing politics," he tweeted on Monday night.

Tonight Senate Democrats blocked a clean bill to fund the government. They had an opportunity to take a bipartisan step toward guaranteeing there’ll be no shutdown but instead they are playing politics. https://t.co/RN6Dx5MPFN

— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) September 28, 2021

Along with the immediate threat of a partial shutdown lies the longer-term challenge of dealing with the country's borrowing limit, amid divisions over a $3.5 trillion package and a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure measure linked to it.

Amid a trading of barbs, the Democrats warned that the GOP's rejection of their measures pushed the country closer to a historic default for the U.S., with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer describing the Republican position as "unhinged."

Republicans want the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own through the reconciliation process that does not require Republican support.

The GOP would benefit from this because it would force Democrats to increase borrowing to a certain number, instead of doing a suspension through a certain date, The Hill reported.

In addition, adding the debt fight to the reconciliation bill will make it harder for Democrats to pass the $3.5 trillion package, and it also may hit the party at the ballot box in the 2022 mid-term elections, the publication noted.

Meanwhile, despite the GOP blocking of the stopgap bill on Monday, a new poll suggests that voters would blame any government shutdown on the Democratic Party.

The survey by Politico/Morning Consult from September 24 to 27 found that nearly a third (32 percent) of people would consider the Democrats responsible for a shutdown while less than a quarter (24 percent) said the GOP would be to blame.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.