Finance

McConnell blocks Schumer attempt to bypass filibuster on debt hike

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) blocked an effort by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster on a debt ceiling hike. 

Schumer tried to get an agreement to set up a simple-majority vote on a bill to suspend the nation's borrowing limit, which would bypass the filibuster and let Democrats raise it without GOP support. 

"Simply allow for a simple-majority threshold to raise the debt ceiling and avoid this needless catastrophe that Republicans have steered us toward," Schumer said. 

"We're just asking Republicans to get out of the way. Get out of the way, when you are risking the full faith and credit of the United States to play a nasty political game," he added. 

Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can try to set up a vote, but any one senator can also object and block that request. 

McConnell shut down Schumer's request, arguing that Republicans wouldn't help Democrats raise the debt ceiling outside of reconciliation, the budget process Democrats are using to try to pass a sweeping social spending bill. 

"Democrats will not get bipartisan help borrowing money so they can immediately blow historic sums on a partisan taxing and spending spree. The Democratic leader knew this request would fail," McConnell said.  

"There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible," McConnell added. 

The back-and-forth on the Senate floor comes as lawmakers are at a stalemate over how to raise the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that they will need to raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 18 or risk a default.  

Schumer said earlier Tuesday that he would try to get an agreement, pointing out that McConnell, during his own floor speeches, had noted Republicans had voted to raise the debt ceiling during the George W. Bush administration without Democratic support. But at the time Democrats hadn't filibustered the bill, allowing Republicans to pass it by a simple majority.  

Conservatives, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), immediately pledged that Republicans would block the move. 

Republicans are trying to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling as part of a sweeping spending bill that they are passing under reconciliation, a budget process that lets them avoid the filibuster.  

But under reconciliation, Democrats couldn't just suspend the debt ceiling but would instead have to agree to a specific number to raise the nation's borrowing limit to, a move that would likely be used against them in 2022 by Republicans. 

McConnell countered Schumer's request on the Senate floor by trying to lay the groundwork for considering an updated budget resolution that included debt ceiling language - a first step Democrats would have to take if they were going to include it under reconciliation. 

But Schumer rejected the move and told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that using reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling was "risky" and a "non-starter."

"It's very, very risky," he added. "We're not pursuing that."

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