Debt ceiling vote will test Dems' unity

Senate Democratic unity will face a test Saturday when Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (D-Nev.) moves forward with a plan to pass a 14-month debt-ceiling extension.

The unity of the 54-member caucus has been Reid’s biggest asset in his showdown with House Republicans. Senate Democrats have voted together to reject various House proposals to link legislation unraveling ObamaCare to a government funding stopgap.

If Reid keeps his rank-and-file members together, it would strengthen Democrats’ leverage in negotiations to avoid a federal default later this month.

But the vote presents a political risk to red state Democrats who are undecided over whether to support a clean extension raising the nation’s debt ceiling by an estimated $1.1 trillion.

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Reid kept his team together in rejecting the House-passed stopgaps but only at some political cost.

Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonGOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions Opposition to Obama's radical disarmament agenda has proven effective Fears mount that Obama will change course on Israel in final months MORE (R-Ark.) released a television ad last weekend against Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (D-Ark.), perhaps the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbent, slamming him for voting against a House bill that would have prevented congressional lawmakers and staff from receiving employer contributions through the healthcare exchanges.

“Mark Pryor cast the deciding vote to make you live under ObamaCare but Pryor votes himself and everyone else in Congress special subsidies,” the ad’s narrator claimed.

Democrats note, however, that Speaker John BoehnerJohn Boehner3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Republican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (R-Ohio) initially negotiated to preserve healthcare benefits for congressional staff.

Democrats also argue red state incumbents will face little political threat because the vote is on an arcane procedural motion.

“It’s just to debate the debt limit. No way that puts them in political peril,” said a Democratic aide.

The vote also poses some risk to Reid’s negotiating position because if any centrist Democrats defect, it would undercut his stance that it is not appropriate to negotiate over the debt limit.

Sens. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyOvernight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Overnight Energy: Judges scrutinize Obama climate rule Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (D-Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Wells Fargo board to decide on executive clawbacks MORE (D-N.D.) have declined to state whether they will vote.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Mylan CEO should be ashamed of EpiPen prices Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (D-W.Va.) says it would make sense to link a debt-limit increase to deficit-reduction talks but has not ruled anything out. Last month, Manchin voted against a House-passed stopgap tied to a one-year delay of the individual mandate, despite earlier expressing support for such a delay.

“I’m looking for a bigger deal, I’m not looking for kicking the can” down the road, he said. “I’ve always supported the Bowles-Simpson approach, an all-inclusive deal, where you have spending, you’re looking at the spending, looking at revenue and you’re looking at basically reform.”

Pryor says he could support a clean debt-limit increase but has also voiced willingness to consider spending reforms in conjunction with expanded borrowing authority.

Sens. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuLouisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator La. Senate contender books seven-figure ad buy Crowded field muddies polling in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) and Mark BegichMark BegichRyan's victory trumps justice reform opponents There is great responsibility being in the minority Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect MORE (D-Alaska), who also face tough races next year, are expected to vote yes.  

“I don’t believe the economy or the federal government should be held hostage by a minority of Republicans who can’t get their way,” said Landrieu.

“The key is pay the bills, open the government, let’s have a conversation,” said Begich, who argued that 70 percent of recent deficit-reduction has come from spending cuts.

He also noted that Democrats accepted the funding levels the House GOP set in the stopgap.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal 78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, predicts that “about every Democrat” will vote for the 14-month debt-limit bill, leaving a little wiggle room for defectors.

The Senate will vote at noon and the measure is expected to fail along party lines.  Reid needs 60 votes to end debate on the motion to proceed to it.

Senate Republicans are looking past the vote to negotiations with Senate Democrats over a potential deal to open the government through the end of fiscal year 2014 and raise the debt limit.

They have demanded a repeal of ObamaCare’s medical device tax and a process to verify the incomes of people applying for subsidies through the healthcare exchanges. In return, they are willing to extend the nation’s borrowing authority for several months.

Senate Republicans have been negotiating with the two Democratic senators from Virginia, Tim KaineTim KaineFive things Trump can do to regain momentum The Trail 2016: Just a little kick Clinton camp touts 40 more GOP endorsements MORE and Mark WarnerMark WarnerDemocrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Democratic tax bill targets foreign reinsurance transactions Leahy wants Judiciary hearing on Yahoo MORE, whose state has been hit especially hard by the shutdown, according to a source familiar with the talks.

If the House passes a short-term debt-limit increase that fails to reopen the government, the Senate could amend it with a bipartisan agreement to expand borrowing authority and fund federal agencies, sending it back to the lower chamber by the middle of next week.