Schumer: Raising debt limit through budget reconciliation a ‘non-starter’

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday ruled out using the budget reconciliation process to raise the debt limit with only Democratic votes.

“Going through reconciliation is risky to the country and is a non-starter,” Schumer declared at a press conference after meeting with the Senate Democratic Conference.

“Going through the long, convoluted, difficult reconciliation process with debt limit is very, very risky,” he added. “We’re not pursuing that.” 

Schumer said he plans to offer a unanimous consent request Tuesday afternoon to allow a measure to suspend the debt limit to pass the Senate with a simple majority vote. If every senator agrees, the measure would not need to overcome the 60-vote threshold to bypass a filibuster. 

Schumer pointed out that Republicans used a similar consent agreement under former President George W. Bush to raise the debt limit with a simple majority vote.  

“If Republicans really want to see the debt ceiling raised without providing a single vote, I’m prepared to hold that vote,” he said.

But Republicans, including conservative Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), said before lunchtime they would object to Schumer’s request

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) later objected to Schumer’s request to allow the debt ceiling to be suspended without mustering 60 votes to end debate.

“When the Democratic leader was recently in the minority, he made us file cloture on matters that weren’t one-tenth as controversial,” he said. “But now the leader wants us to skip that step on something this controversial? This controversial? Of course, that’s not going to happen.”

The entire Senate Republican Conference voted Monday to block legislation to fund the government past Sept. 30, fund Afghan refugee resettlement and disaster relief, and suspend the debt limit until mid-December 2022.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also told reporters earlier in the day that the reconciliation path for raising the debt limit is a “non-starter.”

He warned that it would take three to four weeks to amend the budget resolution to set up a reconciliation pathway for raising the debt limit and passing the debt-limit increase through both chambers.

The comments by the Democratic leaders Tuesday broke with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who earlier in the day opened the door to using the reconciliation process to raising the debt limit.

Hoyer pointed to a warning from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the nation’s borrowing authority could expire as soon as Oct. 18 and suggested that Democrats may not have any choice but to pass the measure alone via reconciliation.

“It is not an alternative not to protect the full faith and credit of the United States. So we may have to use reconciliation,” Hoyer said during a press call. “I think that would be a sad statement of Republican irresponsibility.”

Updated at 3:28 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer debt ceiling Dick Durbin Janet Yellen Mitch McConnell Ron Johnson Steny Hoyer Ted Cruz
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