U.S. Senate Democrats, Republicans Bargain To Settle Short-Term Debt
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (Reuters) – Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate were due to continue negotiations Thursday to avoid a debt crisis after Democrats showed openness to a Republican offer to allow an extension of the federal debt ceiling until December.
Democrats overturned a vote early Wednesday afternoon after Senate top Republican Mitch McConnell launched the plan that would save a few months to resolve the issue.
But it could also kick the box until the end of the year, when Congress also faces a deadline for government funding. Democrats also want to pass two massive spending bills that form a large part of President Joe Biden’s national agenda in the coming weeks.
Without Congressional action to raise the debt ceiling to $ 28.4 trillion, the Treasury Department predicted it would no longer have the means to meet all of its obligations by October 18. Republicans have blocked Democrats’ efforts to propose legislation to suspend the cap.
But on Wednesday, McConnell suggested passing legislation to raise the debt limit by a set amount, which he did not specify, until December.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met his fellow Democrats behind closed doors to discuss McConnell’s idea, but made no public comment. Other Democrats have said they are considering the offer.
“I think it’s a step forward. Obviously, I hope we can now negotiate a process that creates a long-term solution “to the debt ceiling,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and is a leader of the left.
Later Wednesday evening, McConnell said the two sides were exchanging ideas. “We are exchanging paper,” the Republican leader told reporters. “Which you are still doing at this point.”
But while Democrats were interested in a two-month debt ceiling extension, they showed little interest in another McConnell suggestion: that they use the intervening weeks to push through a debt ceiling extension. through a complex process called reconciliation.
Several Democrats have said it will be too complicated and risky.
“We are not going to limit the debt through reconciliation,” said Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. “At this point, if we can move it (the debt ceiling) until December, it just gives us more time to… deliver on the president’s agenda.”
“McConnell gave in,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, another Democrat. “And now we’re going to be spending our time doing child care, health care, and fighting climate change.”
Republicans, meanwhile, said they fear Democrats would change a rule known as filibuster that requires a 60-vote qualified majority for most laws to move forward, if the debt problem was not resolved.
The Senate is split 50-50 among parties, which has allowed Republicans to use filibuster to block Democrats’ efforts to suspend the debt ceiling as well as other Democratic initiatives. But Biden said Tuesday night that Democrats would consider making an exception to the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling and defend the economy.
When asked if his fellow Republicans were concerned about getting close to a default, Sen. Kevin Cramer said, “Republicans are more concerned about the prospect of detonating the filibuster.”
Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Makini Brice; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool
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