Debt ceiling vote will test Dems' unity

Debt ceiling vote will test Dems' unity

Senate Democratic unity will face a test Saturday when Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDonald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary McConnell cements his standing in GOP history 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 CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonWhite House warns Congress against trying to block ZTE deal With caveats, Republicans praise Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un GOP senator: Trump sitting down with Kim not ‘pretty’ but ‘necessary’ to stop nuclear threat MORE (R-Ark.) released a television ad last weekend against Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm 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 Andrew BoehnerHillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase Facebook execs to meet with GOP leaders over concerns about anti-conservative bias Boehner: Federal government should not interfere in recreational marijuana decisions 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 DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms Todd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Primary results give both parties hopes for November MORE (D-Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump announces North Dakota rally for June 27 Opioid treatment plans must include a trauma-informed approach Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms MORE (D-N.D.) have declined to state whether they will vote.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin touts support for Trump border wall in new ad Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms White House was in talks with Manchin to lead Veterans Affairs: report 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 Loretta LandrieuLandrieu dynasty faces a pause in Louisiana Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns MORE (D-La.) and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichFormer Alaska senator jumps into governor race Overnight Energy: Trump directs Perry to stop coal plant closures | EPA spent ,560 on customized pens | EPA viewed postcard to Pruitt as a threat Perez creates advisory team for DNC transition 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 (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump knocks Schumer, touts North Korea summit in early morning tweet Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems want answers on DOJ ObamaCare decision The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump, Kim make history with summit 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 KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineGOP senator: Family separation policy 'inconsistent' with American values RNC mum on whether it will support Trump-backed Corey Stewart GOP Senate candidate accuses Chris Cuomo’s father of anti-Semitic remarks in heated exchange MORE and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerWray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report Top Dems: IG report shows Comey's actions helped Trump win election Dem senator: Trump at G-7 made me ‘embarrassed for our country’ 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.