Graham opposes short-term debt hike
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Wednesday that he opposes a short-term debt hike being hashed out by Senate leadership and that Republicans shouldn’t be “held hostage” due to concerns that Democrats could change the filibuster.
Graham, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, is the first Senate Republican to speak out against the tentative deal that is still being worked out by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“I do not support the Democrats’ reconciliation package and I do not support raising the debt limit to make that level of spending possible. If Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling they can use the reconciliation process,” Graham said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Graham confirmed that he was opposed to a short-term debt hike to December.
McConnell, as part of the offer from Republicans, said that they would help expedite the reconciliation process if Democrats decided to raise the debt ceiling on their own through the budget rules that let them bypass a filibuster. He also said that Republicans would let Democrats pass a short-term debt hike as long as the short-term extension was to a specific number and not a day.
Democrats, after a closed-door meeting, vowed that they wouldn’t use reconciliation but indicated that they will take McConnell up on his offer of a short-term debt hike, with Congress currently having until Oct. 18 to prevent a debt default, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Schumer and McConnell are now haggling over the size of the debt hike. They’ll also need total buy-in from their colleagues to speed up a vote on the eventual agreement and to sidestep a 60-vote procedural hurdle. If they can’t get that deal, 10 Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to end debate on a short-term debt hike, even though they could all vote against it on final passage.
The offer from McConnell comes as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) were under fierce pressure to support a carveout to the legislative filibuster for the debt ceiling.
Republicans acknowledged that trying to alleviate some of the pressure on Manchin and Sinema impacted their discussions. Senators believe that once a carveout to the legislative filibuster is created for one issue, it will likely be difficult to prevent a similar move on other priorities — such as voting and abortion rights — or the procedure being nixed altogether.
A member of GOP leadership told The Hill that it was “safe” to say that the pressure on Manchin and Sinema to support changes to the filibuster impacted Republican thinking.
“There’s a lot of appreciation on this side for the fact that they’ve been willing to stand up for what they say they were for,” the senator said, referring to Manchin and Sinema’s support for the filibuster.
But Graham, in his statement on Wednesday night, blistered over that strategy, arguing that Republicans shouldn’t be “held hostage or extorted regarding threats to change the legislative filibuster.”
“When Republicans were in charge of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives I held firm against any moves to change the legislative filibuster. I never told my Democratic colleagues that ‘Unless you work with me on certain things, I will have to create a carve-out to the filibuster,'” Graham said.
“If an expedited reconciliation process is not good enough, then Democrats should own it and change the rules,” he added.
Graham’s statement could preview headaches for GOP leaders as they try to get their members lined up behind a deal.
Former President Trump also lashed out at McConnell earlier Wednesday over the offer. Graham and Trump were close allies during his time in the White House, and Graham remains in touch with the former president.
“Looks like Mitch McConnell is folding to the Democrats, again,” Trump said in a statement. “He’s got all of the cards with the debt ceiling, it’s time to play the hand. Don’t let them destroy our Country!”