Senate Democrats float filibuster carveout for debt ceiling

Senate Democrats are discussing creating an exemption from the filibuster for the debt ceiling, even as they acknowledge that it’s unclear they have the support in their caucus for such a move.

The idea was brought up during a closed-door caucus lunch on Tuesday, sources confirmed to The Hill, as Democrats try to figure out how to avoid a historic debt default. 

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinFill the Eastern District of Virginia  Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan MORE (D-Ill.), who told reporters as recently as Monday that there were not active talks, confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday that Democrats are now discussing a filibuster carveout for the debt ceiling. 

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“There are discussions,” he told The Hill, asked about the status of potential talks.

Creating such an exemption would take total unity within the 50-member conference and Vice President Harris presiding to break a tie, a bar it’s not clear Democrats could meet.

“We have very few options right now, so one of the options clearly is to have a narrow change in rules,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyExpats plead with US to deliver COVID-19 vaccines Growing number of Democrats endorse abolishing debt limit altogether Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (D-Conn.).

Murphy, in an apparent reference to the dynamics with the caucus, added, “I don’t know where all my colleagues are.” 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' GOP disappointment with McConnell deal could delay vote MORE (D-Md.) added that he personally supports changes to the 60-vote filibuster rule, but deferred to leadership about if he thought Democrats could win over Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinMajor climate program likely to be nixed from spending package: reports Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Biden gets personal while pitching agenda The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations - US opens to vaccinated visitors as FDA panel discusses boosters MORE (D-Ariz.), two opponents to changing the Senate’s filibuster that requires 60 votes for passing most legislation.

“I’m telling you it’s urgent. We’ve got to get it done sooner rather than later,” Cardin added about the debt ceiling.

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Biden, asked about a carve out for the debt ceiling, told CNN that it was a “real possibility.”

Democrats have been under growing pressure to nix the legislative filibuster with the stalemate with Republicans over how to raise the debt ceiling pouring new fuel into those calls.

But Manchin indicated to reporters on Monday that he didn’t view gutting the filibuster as connected to the fight over the debt ceiling.

“The filibuster has nothing to do with debt ceiling. Basically, we have other tools that we can use, and if we have to use them we should use them,” Manchin said on Monday.

Asked about his Democratic colleagues floating creating an exemption from the filibuster for the debt ceiling, Manchin on Tuesday evening pointed to Senate leadership.

“They got to work through it. Let the leaders work it out, they should work it out. They both know what this country needs,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

Congress has until Oct. 18 to raise the debt ceiling or risk default. 

Republicans have twice blocked debt ceiling suspensions as they try to force Democrats to raise it in their own through reconciliation, a budget process that lets them bypass the filibuster.

But Democrats have so far refused to put that on the table and several were adamant on Tuesday after the closed-door lunch that it was a non-starter.

"It's impossible to do that now," said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBuilding back better by investing in workers and communities US on track to miss debt payments as soon as Oct. 19: analysis On The Money — Presented by NRHC — Democrats cross the debt ceiling Rubicon MORE (D-Ohio). "There's too many pitfalls, it takes too long."

Updated at 7:08 p.m.