McConnell offers Democrats deal to solve debt impasse
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is offering Democrats a deal that could end the stand-off over raising the nation’s debt ceiling just weeks before a possible default.
The GOP leader issued a statement shortly after a Senate Republican Caucus lunch announcing that he will allow Democrats to increase the nation’s borrowing authority for two months without having to use the cumbersome and time-consuming budget reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster.
But the catch is that McConnell will require Democrats to vote on a higher debt-limit number — something they would be required to do under the Senate’s budget reconciliation rules — instead of only voting on legislation to suspend the debt limit to sometime after next year’s midterm election.
“To protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis, we will … allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December,” McConnell said.
The move by McConnell comes as Democrats had begun talking about making an exception to the filibuster to pass a hike to the debt ceiling.
But it was not clear Democrats had the votes to do so, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) holding a press conference earlier on Wednesday signaling his opposition to that approach.
McConnell has also offered to speed up the budget reconciliation process to raise the debt limit if Democrats decide to go that route.
McConnell revealed his new offer to Schumer shortly before the Senate was scheduled to vote on House-passed legislation until after the 2022 midterm election. Republicans are set to oppose that vote.
Business groups had been exerting pressure on the GOP over the debt ceiling, and a number of members were uncomfortable with the stalemate given the risk of a default.
“I think you’re going to hear from Leader McConnell. He’s going to outline the proposal that he is prepared to discuss with Leader Schumer, and I think that’s going to give us a way out of the woods, which is what we want,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters after the lunch.
Democrats on Tuesday said they would not agree to use budget reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling.
Schumer and other Democrats have complained that it would take too long to raise the debt limit via reconciliation, which potentially could require them to hold votes to discharge an amendment to the 2022 budget resolution out of committee and then to hold two lengthy vote-a-ramas on the budget amendment and then a subsequent reconciliation package.
McConnell on Wednesday said his latest offer will address Democrats’ stated concerns that voting to increase the debt limit to some number higher than $30 trillion will take too much time and could put the nation at risk of default.
“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation,” he said.
McConnell also floated the idea of a bipartisan deal on spending if Democrats drop their plans to pass a $1.5 trillion to $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package on a party-line vote to implement President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
“Alternatively, if Democrats abandon their efforts to ram through another historically reckless taxing and spending spree that will hurt families and help China, a more traditional bipartisan governing conversation could be possible,” he said.
Manchin earlier had urged McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to begin talking to figure out a deal.
“I truly implore both leaders … to engage, start working, work this out,” Manchin said.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) before the lunch meeting said he was optimistic about a deal.
“There are a lot of conversations right now about a path forward and I think we can find that path,” he said. “We got a vote this afternoon. I think after that vote we’ll have a better sense about that.
This story was updated at 2:39 p.m.