Manchin signals he won’t support filibuster carveout for debt hike

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Wednesday that he remains opposed to changing the Senate’s legislative filibuster, dealing a blow to progressive hopes to use a rules change as an escape hatch from a fight over the nation’s borrowing limit. 

“I’ve been very, very clear where I stand on the filibuster. Nothing changes,” Manchin told a gaggle of reporters outside of his Senate office. 

Manchin’s comments come as the idea of an debt ceiling exemption from the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation, has gained steam within the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Democrats discussed the idea, as well as other potential backup plans, during a closed-door caucus lunch on Tuesday, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) confirming that talks were underway.

And moderate Democrats, long viewed as wary to a rules change, indicated that they would support it. 

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he could support a “pause” on the filibuster for the debt ceiling vote.

“There ought to be some way to suspend” the filibuster for a debt ceiling vote, Warner said.

But changing the legislative filibuster even just for a narrow carveout on the debt ceiling was a heavy lift for Senate Democrats, given entrenched opposition to making changes to the 60-vote rule from Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). 

To invoke the “nuclear option,” Democrats would need total unity from their 50-member caucus and Vice President Harris in the chair to break a tie. A spokesman for Sinema didn’t immediately respond to a question on Wednesday about if she would support creating a carveout from the filibuster for the debt ceiling.

Manchin said as recently as Monday that he didn’t view changes to the filibuster as an option on 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 at the time. 

Democrats are scrambling to come up with backup options for raising the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned leadership that they need to raise the nation’s borrowing limit by Oct. 18 or risk a historic default. 

Republicans are poised to block a debt suspension bill on Wednesday afternoon as they try to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation, a budget process that lets them bypass the filibuster.

“For two and a half months, Republicans have provided a clear and consistent road map for the Democratic government to raise the debt ceiling,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday.

“Democrats have had two and a half months’ notice to use the fast-track, party-line reconciliation process which they have already used happily this year and already intend to use again,” he added.

But Democrats are so far ruling that option out, arguing that they previously helped suspend the debt ceiling under then-President Trump. 

Manchin, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, argued that it’s time for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and McConnell to start negotiating. 

McConnell and Schumer have not been negotiating on the debt ceiling. 

“I truly implore both leaders … to engage, start working, work this out,” Manchin said. 

“We have a responsibility to be the adults … we should not have these artificial crisis,” he added. “Please lead, lead, work together.”

Updated at 12:22 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer debt ceiling Dick Durbin Donald Trump Filibuster Janet Yellen Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Mark Warner Mitch McConnell
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