Schumer: Congress needs to raise debt ceiling by end of the week
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Monday that Congress needs to get a bill raising the debt ceiling to President Biden’s desk by the end of the week, an ambitious timeline given an entrenched stalemate between Democrats and Republicans.
“Let me be clear about the task ahead of us: we must get a bill to the President’s desk dealing with the debt limit by the end of the week. Period,” Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats on Monday.
Schumer’s timeline cuts in half the roughly two weeks that lawmakers have to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen previously told congressional leadership that they needed to act by Oct. 18 or risk a historic default with broad economic consequences.
But Schumer, in his letter, argued that Congress couldn’t afford to go down to the wire, a move that he warned might rattle the financial markets.
“We do not have the luxury of waiting until October 18th, as it is our responsibility to re-assure the world that the United States meets our obligations in a timely fashion and that the full faith and credit of the United States should never be in question. The consequences of even approaching the X date could be disastrous for our economy and devastating to American families,” Schumer wrote.
Congress and then-President Trump previously suspended the debt ceiling in 2019. It kicked back in on Aug. 1, and Yellen has been using so-called extraordinary measures to keep the government solvent since then.
Schumer gave no hint in his letter what mechanism Democrats would use to raise the debt ceiling but indicated that Democrats will discuss it in their closed-door lunch on Tuesday.
Republicans have twice blocked Democrats from being able to suspend the debt ceiling. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to force Democrats to do it under reconciliation, a budget process that lets them avoid the Senate filibuster.
“For two and a half months, this all-Democrat government has known they will need to use a fast-track party-line process to raise the debt ceiling, but have done nothing,” McConnell said in a statement over the weekend.
The House, which passed a debt ceiling hike last week, is currently out of town for two weeks, pushing them up against Yellen’s timeline. Schumer, in his letter, warned that if they aren’t able to break the stalemate over the nation’s borrowing limit, then the Senate “will likely be forced to remain in session over this weekend” and “possibly” through a one-week recess scheduled to start on Oct. 11.
Senate Democrats previously tried to suspend the debt ceiling as part of a short-term government funding bill, but Republicans blocked it from getting the 60 votes needed to move forward. McConnell also objected to Schumer’s request last week to bypass the 60-vote filibuster on a stand-alone debt suspension bill.
The House sent the Senate another bill to suspend the debt ceiling last week before leaving town. Democrats were able to advance the legislation last week toward a final vote, but they’ll still need to defeat a 60-vote GOP filibuster in order to ultimately pass it.
Schumer doesn’t address trying to raise the debt limit through reconciliation in his letter — something he ruled out as recently as last week — and a Democratic aide warned on Monday morning is still viewed as procedurally risky and time-consuming heading toward Oct. 18.
In addition to figuring out how to defang the debt ceiling standoff, Schumer is trying to keep momentum behind Biden’s two-track spending package that includes the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill that’s already passed the Senate and the sweeping social spending package still being haggled over by Democrats.
Schumer, in his letter, reiterated that he views the end of October as the new deadline for getting both to Biden’s desk after the House failed to pass the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill and Democratic leadership and the White House didn’t reach a deal on a framework for the social spending bill.
“We can get this done, together, if we put aside our differences and find the common ground within our party. It will require sacrifice,” Schumer wrote.
“Not every member will get everything he or she wanted. But at the end of the day, we will pass legislation that will dramatically improve the lives of the American people. I believe we are going to do just that in the month of October,” he added.
Updated at 10:31 a.m.