Oct 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McConnell proposes debt limit deal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is seen addressing reporters.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is offering Democrats a deal that could help the country avoid defaulting on its debt.

Driving the news: The proposal includes two options, which McConnell laid out in a statement on Wednesday: allowing Democrats to fast-track the suspension of the debt limit using the partisan budget reconciliation process, or raise the limit to a specified figure through December.

  • It's unclear whether Democrats will agree to either one.

What they're saying: "We have already made it clear we would assist in expediting the [budget] reconciliation process for stand-alone debt-limit legislation," McConnell said in his statement.

  • "To protect the American people from a near-term, Democrat-created crisis, we will also 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."
  • "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," McConnell said. "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.”

Between the lines: The proposal is the first sign of movement from Republicans on their position they would obstruct any effort to suspend or raise the debt limit.

  • That had included enabling Democrats to do so on their own through a simple majority vote.

Behind the scenes: A Republican senator, as well as some Senate Republican aides, told Axios a large part of McConnell's decision was driven by the Democrats' fresh calls to modify the filibuster — which requires 60-votes to move on major legislation — as they sought to break the debt-limit impasse.

  • "The paramount concern here is saving the 60-vote rule, saving the filibuster," the Republican senator said.
  • "If you compare the debt ceiling, which is raised frequently, to permanently changing the Senate as an institution, it's not even a close call," the senator added.
  • Several other Republican senators, including Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), refused to comment on McConnell's offer and whether they'd support a short-term debt ceiling increase.

The backdrop: The Senate delayed its scheduled cloture vote Wednesday afternoon.

  • That would allow Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to ask for unanimous consent to pass a debt-limit suspension — which would only require Democratic votes to pass.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect new comments from senators and their aides, as well as the delayed vote.

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