Dec 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate leaders sell members on debt limit deal

Sen. Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are urging their respective caucuses to back a deal that would clear a path to raising the debt ceiling.

Driving the news: The agreement, negotiated by the two leaders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), involves Congress passing a law allowing a one-time rule change so the Senate can raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, rather than the 60 typically needed to overcome the filibuster.

Why it matters: The push comes as Congress scrambles to raise the debt limit by Dec. 15, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. will default on its debt. Economists have warned such a default could have devastating consequences.

Details: The House is expected to vote later today to pass a bill creating a one-time, fast track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling via simple majority.

  • The measure requires that Democrats specify the dollar amount they want to raise the limit by, and the expedited procedure would expire after January 16, 2022.
  • The law itself will need 60 votes to pass the Senate.

What we're hearing: The potential deal was discussed in both Democrats' and Republicans' respective lunches on Tuesday.

  • According to Axios' conversations with lawmakers and their aides, it increasingly looks like at least 10 Republicans will take the deal, though that could change.
  • If they do, it would avoid what many on the Hill initially expected to be a very messy and arduous process.

Between the lines: The reason the Senate is going through complex process is to allow Republicans to say they didn't vote for increasing the debt limit, despite clearing the path for Democrats' to do it on their own.

What they're saying: “I would expect that’s what happens," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of Senate GOP leadership, said of the prospect of at least 10 Republicans voting with Democrats to pass the law, adding, "Maybe more."

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Axios the deal accomplishes the GOP's goal of having Democrats raise the debt ceiling on their own "and be held politically accountable for racking up more debt."
Go deeper