Biden: ‘Really Possible’ Democrats Could Change Senate Rules Regarding Raising Debt

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WASHINGTON, Oct.5 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden said on Tuesday his Democrats could make an exception to a US Senate rule to allow them to expand the government’s borrowing power without help from Republicans, which could prevent an economically crippling payment default.

As a standoff between Republicans and Democrats showed no signs of slowing down, Biden said there was a “real possibility” that his party would bypass the long-standing requirement for a qualified majority vote known as the filibuster to meet the debt limit.

This would allow Democrats, who hold a much smaller majority in the Senate, to suspend the federal government’s $ 28.4 trillion borrowing cap without Republican votes.

When asked if Democrats would remove filibuster just to raise the debt ceiling, Biden replied, “Oh, I think that’s a real possibility.”

Many Democrats have argued that the Senate should get rid of filibuster completely, saying it impedes progress on climate change, voting rights and other priorities.

Centrist Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have said they are unwilling to do so, leaving the party short of the votes it needs to change the rule.

But Democrats are now considering dropping filibuster just to deal with the debt limit, several senators have said. Manchin declined to comment when asked about the possibility Tuesday before Biden’s statement.

Biden made the comment as Democrats were due to make a third attempt to suspend the debt ceiling on Wednesday, which Republicans are expected to block.

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Democrats to raise the debt ceiling themselves using a more convoluted approach called reconciliation that would require no Republican votes.

“They have time to do it. And the sooner they do it, the better,” McConnell said at a press conference.

‘DANGEROUS ZONE’

The US Capitol on Capitol Hill, seen at sunset in Washington, USA, September 30, 2021. REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz

Biden and other Democrats say the process would take too long and push the country too close to an unprecedented default. Economists say it would upend the global financial system, increase borrowing costs and kill millions of jobs.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government would run out of borrowing capacity around Oct. 18 if Congress did not increase the country’s borrowing power by $ 28.4 trillion by then.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted last week to suspend the debt ceiling until the end of 2022.

But Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome an obstruction in the Senate, which is equally divided between the two parties. Republicans blocked two more efforts to raise the debt ceiling last week.

“If Republicans want to vote ‘no’ tomorrow, if they really want to be the default party, that’s their choice,” Schumer told the Senate.

Republicans have said the unpleasant task of raising the debt limit should be the responsibility of the party in charge. If they succeed in forcing Democrats to do it themselves, the problem would likely be fodder for attack ads against Democratic contenders for the 2022 congressional election.

Biden and Schumer dismissed reconciliation as too complicated and risky and warned of economic disaster unless Republicans change course. But Schumer did not rule him out at a press conference on Tuesday.

Without a speedy resolution, some government services could be suspended, such as handing out Social Security benefit checks to the elderly.

Even a close call would likely be damaging. A debt ceiling dispute in 2011, which Congress resolved two days before the borrowing limit was reached, brought stocks down and resulted in a first-ever US debt downgrade. .

Moody’s Investors Service said Tuesday it expects Washington to raise the debt ceiling.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner said Congress was already risking the solvency of the United States. “We are currently in the danger zone,” he told reporters.

Using reconciliation could absorb congressional attention, slow Biden’s efforts to reach agreement on his multibillion-dollar social agenda, and potentially undermine his support among moderate and progressive Democrats.

Another potential benefit of pursuing a filibuster exception is that the reconciliation process would force Democrats themselves to adopt a specific dollar amount for a new, higher debt ceiling, rather than simply postponing the process. question until after the November 2022 elections.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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