Senate GOP reject Trump advice on tough negotiations with Dems over debt limit and default

May 13, 2023
Ben Marquis

Former President Donald Trump recently suggested that congressional Republicans should engage in brinksmanship with Democrats over a possible national debt default in order to force them to negotiate spending cuts in exchange for an increase in the debt limit.

That advice fell flat among most Senate Republicans, however, as they distanced themselves from Trump's remarks and instead signaled a commitment to avoiding a default at all costs, according to The Hill.

Many of those same Senate Republicans also expressed optimism in normal negotiations on a deal to raise the debt limit, but the problem there is that President Joe Biden and Democrats have all but refused to negotiate with House Republicans on any sort of meaningful spending cuts as part of an agreement on the debt limit.

Trump tells GOP to toe line of default in debt limit negotiations

During former President Trump's CNN town hall event this week, he said with regard to the debt limit situation, "I say to the Republicans out there -- congressmen, senators -- if they don’t give you massive cuts, you’re going to have to do a default."

"And I don’t believe they’re going to do a default because I think the Democrats will absolutely cave because you don’t want to have that happen," he continued. "But it’s better than what we’re doing right now because we’re spending money like drunken sailors."

Pressed to confirm that he was suggesting a default should be allowed to happen if Democrats refused to agree to any spending cuts, Trump said, "Well, you might as well do it now because you’ll do it later."

He later suggested the consequences of default could merely be "psychological more than anything else. And it could be very bad. It could be, maybe, nothing. Maybe it’s -- you have a bad week or a bad day, but, look, you have to cut your costs."

Usual suspects opposed to Trump

The Hill cited remarks of opposition to Trump's suggestion from several Senate Republicans -- notably those who are not fans of the former president in the first place -- as they were of the mindset that the high stakes and potential risks involved in debt default foreclosed any sort of tough negotiating stance on the debt limit issue.

That includes senators like Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who said Trump's advice was not a "wise strategy," Mitt Romney (R-UT), who said Trump would "celebrate politically" over failed negotiations that might benefit him, and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who argued that Trump will "say whatever he needs to, to get more votes."

Trump's suggestion was also rejected by senators like GOP Whip John Thune (R-SD), who said, "I don’t think we want to go there with the potential consequences," John Cornyn (R-TX), who said, "Nobody thinks default is a good idea," and an unnamed Republican senator who said of the former president, "I don’t think there are a lot of senators who wait for his instructions."

Axios also reported on a number of Senate Republicans who dismissed former President Trump's remarks about toeing the line of default in order to force concessions from Democrats on spending cuts, including Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), who said, "Default should be avoided, period."

Echoing her were senators like Ron Johnson (R-WI) who said, "We will not and should not default on our debt," Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), who said, "We’re not going to default," and Josh Hawley (R-MO), who told the outlet, "There is no world in which [a default] happens."

One senator gets it

However, Axios noted that there was one GOP senator who seemed to understand Trump's "political advice ... not financial advice" to call the bluff of Democrats on default, J.D. Vance (R-OH), who said, "He's basically saying that if the Democrats are going to play a game of chicken, Republicans have to be willing to play that game too."

"I think what President Trump is doing is fundamentally the right thing, which is Republicans can't preemptively break ranks here or we're going to have a terrible negotiating position in the talks with Biden," Vance added.

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