- On Tuesday evening Biden opened the door to blowing up part of the filibuster to avoid default.
- He said Democrats were considering it and it was “a real possibility.”
- Manchin and Sinema have opposed changing the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold, making it a longshot.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
President Joe Biden opened the door on Tuesday evening to blowing a one-time hole in the filibuster to pass a debt-limit hike, saying it was “a real possibility” among Democrats as they sorted through options in the face of Republican opposition to prevent a potentially devastating default within two weeks.
Earlier in the day, Biden said “there’s not much time left to do it by reconciliation,” referring to a legislative maneuver that Democrats are employing to approve their social spending plan by relying only on Democratic votes and bypassing fierce GOP opposition.
Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are blocking efforts to renew the US’s ability to pay its bills. They argue Democrats must unilaterally pass a debt-limit hike in reconciliation, betting that it will expose them to politically uncomfortable votes and provide fodder for campaign ads in next year’s midterms.
Democrats argue both parties have a responsibility to repay the debt they racked up in recent years, particularly under the Trump administration. “If Republicans could just get out of the damn way, we could get this done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.
Senate Democrats are balking at reconciliation, a perilous maneuver to undergo with only a few weeks left ahead of a critical deadline. Many Democratic senators are starting to lean in favor of a one-time filibuster exception if it meant averting default.
“You could create a one-time exception to save the economy from catastrophe,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told Insider on Tuesday.
Yet some Democrats, including Biden, have long balked at invoking the so-called “nuclear option” to change the Senate’s filibuster rules in a bid to approve priorities on immigration reform, gun control, and voting rights with a simple majority vote. Most bills must clear a 60-vote threshold first on their path to becoming law, an uphill battle for Democrats in a 50-50 Senate.
Senate Republicans have successfully blocked Biden from enacting most of his plans using the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold. Despite the GOP blockade, some centrist Democrats, like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, insist the filibuster serves as a mechanism to foster compromise with Republicans. Senate Democrats would need the pair’s votes to carve out a temporary exception and pass a debt limit hike unilaterally, rendering the maneuver a longshot.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Manchin would be swayed by the threat of global economic catastrophe to abandon his attachment to the filibuster. “Forget the filibuster,” he told reporters on Monday.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned if Congress fails to act by October 18, the US could fail to make all its debt payments. If the US defaults, seniors could face delays receiving Social Security checks, and federal unemployment benefits along with government health insurance programs for low-income earners could be cut.
Kimberly Leonard contributed reporting.