President Joe Biden has upped the stakes in his quest to put America deeper in debt.
Comments Biden made Tuesday are being interpreted to indicate that he will support congressional Democrats in any effort to poke holes in the Senate procedure known as the filibuster in order to raise America’s debt ceiling, according to Politico.
Ever since Democrats took functional control of the Senate, they have been calling for the abolition of the filibuster, which has the practical effect of requiring 60 votes to pass certain types of legislation. Over time, exceptions have been made to the rule.
At issue now is whether Democrats, who can pass anything they want that requires a simple majority as long as they hold their 50 votes together, will pass legislation to make raising the debt ceiling one of those exceptions.
Because the federal government is mired so deeply in debt, the debt ceiling needs to be raised to allow for yet more borrowing. Unless the ceiling is raised, the government can’t borrow and will run out of cash somewhere around Oct. 18.
To date, Republicans have opposed raising the debt ceiling. This continued opposition led to a question Tuesday to Biden about what Democrats will do next.
“Mr. President, if Senate Minority Leader McConnell refuses to cooperate, should Senate Democrats do this by reconciliation? What happens next?” Biden was asked aboard Air Force One after returning from Michigan.
“Well, quite frankly, there’s not many options. If they’re going to be that irresponsible, there’s not many options. There’s not much time left to do it by reconciliation,” Biden said, according to a White House transcript of his comments.
“They can keep it on two tranches. They can keep us on the floor for hundreds of amendments. They can just delay this. I don’t think they’re going to end up being that irresponsible. I can’t believe it,” Biden said.
Reconciliation is a process by which Democrats can pass a bill that impacts the federal budget without having any Republican support. Republicans have been trying to maneuver Democrats into using that process, which would then put the act of placing the nation deeper in debt solely on the backs of Democrats.
“I respectfully submit that it is time for you to engage directly with congressional Democrats on this matter,” McConnell wrote in a letter to Biden on Monday, according to The New York Times.
“Your lieutenants in Congress must understand that you do not want your unified Democratic government to sleepwalk toward an avoidable catastrophe when they have had nearly three months’ notice to do their job,” he wrote, urging Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own.
Biden’s recent comments are considered a show of support for emasculating the filibuster in what in congressional parlance is called the “nuclear option,” according to Politico.
“Any scenario is possible to fix the debt ceiling right now. Everything is on the table. Every option,” a person who is close to the Democratic leadership’s discussion on this subject told Politico.
“The debt limit needs to be raised. The best would be to do it in a bipartisan manner, but if that’s not possible the Democrats should figure out whatever way works for them,” said Jason Furman, who served as a Council of Economic Advisers chair for former President Barack Obama. “Economically, the outcome is the same whether it is the nuclear option, reconciliation or some other way.”
Past attempts to broadly abolish the filibuster have been rejected by Democratic moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Neither has taken a public position on a carve-out of the rules that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised.
Should that happen, progressive Democrats who have opposed the filibuster are likely to demand other exceptions, Politico’s report noted.
“The logic of McConnell’s argument is essentially telling Democratic senators to abolish the filibuster,” said Faiz Shakir, a Democrat strategist who managed the 2020 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
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