WASHINGTON – Leading Senate Democrats and Republicans have blamed each other for Congress’ failure to raise the country’s debt ceiling, with some Democrats proposing possible changes to the Senate obstruction rule to resolve the impasse, ahead of a possible default in just two weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) called a vote Wednesday – the third in the past two weeks – on lifting a procedural hurdle that stands in the way of raising the debt ceiling . But Republicans, protesting Democrats’ separate spending ambitions, have indicated they will continue to stand united in declining support for an increase in the debt ceiling, which needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate to 50-50. .
Senatorial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) Reiterated that Democrats should expect no help from the GOP, arguing that they should use a procedure called budget reconciliation to pass the increase in the GOP. debt limit with a simple simple majority.
“The sooner they take care of it, the better,” he said. “There is a clear path to achieve raising the debt ceiling. ”
But Mr Schumer again rejected the idea of using reconciliation, calling the complicated legislative process a “convoluted and risky process”. When asked if he could guarantee that the United States would not default, Mr. Schumer replied, “Ask Mitch McConnell”. He said Democrats “are ready to vote ourselves. It’s up to him to decide. All he has to do is step aside. “
Wednesday’s vote is on whether to end debate on legislation suspending the debt limit until December 16, 2022. Last week, the House passed the legislation by a vote of 219-212.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States would exhaust its cash conservation measures by October 18, leaving it without enough money to pay all of its bills.
“It’s really up to Congress to decide how to handle it, but I think it needs to be done.” Ms Yellen said on CNBC Tuesday morning. “It would be catastrophic not to pay the government bills,” she said, predicting a recession among other consequences.
Wall Street has closely followed the evolution of the debt ceiling. On Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service, which assesses the debt, said it expects Democrats “to likely come to an agreement within their own party to raise the debt limit through the reconciliation process. budget “, given the lack of support from the GOP. Democrats weren’t so sure.
“Is Moody’s listening to any of us?” I don’t see any Democratic Party leader suggesting that we do this through reconciliation, ”said Senator Chris Murphy (D., Connecticut).
Mr Murphy and other Democrats have said they are discussing a possible one-day elimination of the 60-vote filibuster to raise the debt ceiling, or potentially a permanent exclusion that would go against Senate rules to obstruct debt ceiling increases. .
“I think that’s a real possibility,” President Biden said in response to a question from a reporter on Tuesday night about whether Democrats could pursue this option. Mr Biden has previously said he does not want to eliminate the filibuster but may be open to changes.
Such a change would require the support of the 50 Democrats, and the senses. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Arizona) insisted they wanted to preserve filibuster. Republicans see the creation of filibuster exceptions as the start of a process that would end in the elimination of the rule as lawmakers push for additional laws, such as immigration or voting. , are also exempt.
“I have always been very skeptical of the idea, but it goes beyond the limits in terms of irresponsibility,” said Senator Angus King (I., Maine) of the obstruction changes. “We have a responsibility to the citizens of this country that goes beyond the rules of the Senate. “
When asked on Tuesday if he would be willing to make temporary changes to the filibuster to deal with the debt ceiling, Mr Manchin replied: ‘I just know there are enough people here. who will not let this country fail. So I want all of your Wall Street Journal readers to know: this is not going to happen. “
President Biden said the chances of tackling the debt ceiling narrowed for each day Republicans blocked a vote.
“There aren’t a lot of options if they’re going to be this irresponsible,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to end up being so irresponsible.”
The positions of the parties have prolonged an impasse that has been building for weeks. Republicans say that because Democrats, who control the White House and both houses of Congress, have worked to advance trillions in new spending without the support of Republicans, the GOP will not give Democrats any easy way out. increase the borrowing limit.
Democrats say lifting the debt ceiling is a shared responsibility of both parties, noting that such votes under the Trump administration were bipartisan. A vote to raise the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending; instead, it essentially allows the Treasury Department to raise funds to pay for expenses that the government has authorized.
Using reconciliation would require Democrats to revise their current budget resolution, which they use to advance a separate social and climate spending agenda, to raise the debt ceiling through a draft of autonomous law. This, in turn, would open up Senate debates and related amendment votes. The possibility that Republicans drag the debate and insist on endless votes is why Democrats argue it would be too risky to use this approach, as it could put the United States too close to running out of options. cash management.
Some Republicans have said they may be willing to make deals with Democrats to limit time allotted for debate and votes in order to move legislation forward faster.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) also said she had not ruled out trying to facilitate the Democrats’ debt ceiling increase.
“I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can not to send ourselves into a default situation, and I don’t even want to come close to it,” she said. She also said Republicans might consider making deals with Democrats to speed up the vote on debt ceiling legislation if they used reconciliation.
Democrats could once again try to push a bill past filibuster by unanimous consent, a technique that would allow Republicans to simply stand aside and let a bill move forward. Such an effort was stalled last week, when Mr McConnell opposed it.
They could also try again to recruit 10 Republicans to join 50 Democrats in order to muster the 60 votes needed to stop the debate and force a simple majority vote on raising the debt ceiling.
Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wisconsin), who lined up 46 Republican signatures for an August letter saying Republicans would not help Democrats raise the debt ceiling, reiterated that he wanted Republicans avoid providing assistance. “The reason I wrote the letter is to make sure it would be less likely,” he said.
—Alex Leary contributed to this article.
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