Schumer Plans to Seek Debt-Limit Vote McConnell Vows to Kill
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set up a procedural vote this week on legislation to suspend the debt ceiling that Republicans have vowed to block, raising questions about whether lawmakers can avert a federal default later this month.
“Before the end of this week, the Senate must -- must -- get a bill to the president’s desk to address the acute crisis of the debt limit,” Schumer said Monday on the Senate floor.
The bill, already passed by the House, would suspend the debt limit until December 2022. Schumer on Monday set in motion plans for a vote to move forward with the legislation, even though Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly that Republicans won’t let it proceed.
President Joe Biden earlier in the day warned that the U.S. government is at risk of breaching the cap on its borrowing authority in two weeks, blaming McConnell for what he described as a “meteor” headed for the economy.
McConnell told Biden in a letter that he should pressure Democratic leaders in Congress to raise the debt limit on their own, using the same filibuster-bypassing reconciliation procedure that they used to enact the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill in March and are aiming to use for an up-to-$3.5 trillion social-spending bill.
Biden and Schumer have rejected that as too time consuming and risky, and out of sync with the bipartisan process historically used for the debt ceiling. McConnell was unmoved, saying on the Senate floor that Democrats “just want a bipartisan short cut.”
It would take 60 votes to succeed with Schumer’s latest try, and the Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties. McConnell said Republicans won’t support an effort to bypass that requirement by unanimous consent, as Democrats did several times in the early 2000s when the GOP controlled the Senate.
At least some Republicans indicated they could go along with letting Democrats pass a debt ceiling on their own by agreeing to let the vote proceed without a filibuster.
Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt said most Republicans would probably consent to bypass the filibuster by waiving a vote to close off debate, but there are “five or six” GOP members who would block it at this point. Blunt said all 50 Republicans would vote to block Schumer’s move to bring the House-passed debt-limit bill to the floor this week.
Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota said he would be willing to vote to close off debate if Democrats raised the debt by a specific amount rather than a suspension.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the government will run out of cash by around Oct. 18 but other observers see a week or two longer. Senate Republicans have twice blocked Democrats from moving legislation to suspend the debt ceiling.
Budget experts say that the reconciliation process, which wouldn’t need a single Republican vote, would take at least two weeks to complete. Schumer has said Democrats won’t take that course.
Senate Republicans blocked a stopgap measure funding the government that included a debt-limit suspension on Sept. 27, only agreeing to keep the government open in a later measure that scotched the language on the borrowing limit. Days later, they refused to grant unanimous consent for a Schumer proposal to pass the House-approved debt ceiling with just a simple majority -- a speedy method of addressing the debt-limit crisis without Republican votes.
Adding further to the brinkmanship, the Senate is scheduled to be out of session next week for a Columbus Day recess. The House has no votes scheduled this week or next.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.