Schumer warns October recess in jeopardy over debt limit fight

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday signaled he may cancel the chamber’s October recess to allow more time to resolve the stalemate over raising the nation’s borrowing authority.

“We’re going to stay here until we get this done,” Schumer declared at a press conference after meeting with his caucus.

The Senate is scheduled to be in recess the week of Oct. 11 in observance of Columbus Day, but there’s a growing sense that lawmakers might not be able to go home for any extended period of time until November given the looming debt ceiling deadline. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said Congress will need to taken action by Oct. 18 to ensure the federal government does not default on its debt for first time in U.S. history.

Schumer on Tuesday reiterated the argument he’s made since last week that the debt limit can be dealt with swiftly if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Republicans agree to allow it to be suspended by a simple majority vote.

He again warned that using budget reconciliation to bypass a Republican filibuster would be too time consuming. That process would require the Senate Budget Committee to mark up an amendment to the budget resolution, followed by a vote to discharge the resolution to the floor and then two vote-a-ramas to amend the budget and pass a subsequent reconciliation vehicle focused narrowly on the debt limit.

“Reconciliation is a drawn-out, convoluted and risky process with default and downgrade hovering over us. The best way to do it is the way we said. That’s what we’re telling Leader McConnell and the American people we need to do,” he said.

Schumer on Monday filed a motion to set up a Wednesday vote on a standalone House-passed bill to suspend the debt limit until December 2022.

He is calling on Republicans not to filibuster the legislation so it can come up for a final up-or-down vote that Democrats would then approve with a simple-majority vote.

“Tomorrow’s vote is a chance for some Republican senators to show some independence from the extreme members of their conference who are running for president,” Schumer said Tuesday.

“All we need is 10 Republicans to vote with us” to end debate “and then none of them have to vote with us to raise the debt ceiling,” he added.

Asked if he could guarantee the United States will not default, Schumer said, “ask Mitch McConnell.” 

“The bottom line is it’s very simple. It’s on his shoulders. We are willing to cast the 50 votes ourselves. It’s up to him. All he has to do is get out of the way,” Schumer said.

McConnell on Tuesday told reporters that he can’t guarantee that all 50 members of his Republican conference would agree to waive a filibuster to allow the debt-limit suspension to pass with a simple majority.

“That would require getting consent from every single Republican to lower the threshold to 51; I can’t imagine that would happen,” he said. “The reason that wouldn’t happen is that we’ve been pointing out for two months how they ought to do it.”

He said the easiest way at this point is for Democrats to amend the 2022 budget resolution to set up a special reconciliation process, which would bypass a filibuster.

Schumer, however, has warned that the process would take up to two weeks and could be dragged out by just one senator.

The Democratic leader said McConnell was “wrong” to say that allowing the debt-limit suspension to pass with 51 votes would require the consent of every GOP senator because it would only require 10 of them to vote for the cloture motion he filed Monday to allow for a simple-majority vote.

“It’s not a few Republicans blocking us. All we need is 10,” he said, predicting all Democrats would vote in favor of the debt-limit legislation.

Tags Chuck Schumer Janet Yellen Mitch McConnell

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