What might the Democrats do?Emerging from the Thursday meeting, McConnell called it a "good discussion" and the two agreed to "keep talking" about the massive year-end agenda the Senate is struggling to finish, including raising the debt ceiling and avoiding a government shutdown by December 3. Senators briefed on the matter say Republicans are open to a deal that would allow Democrats to easily raise the debt ceiling without GOP support, so long as Republicans don't drag out the process.
Though Joe Manchin says he doesn't want to.Democrats could either use a process known as budget reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered but would open them up to scores of GOP amendments in the Senate and would eat up days of precious floor time.
Or they could change the filibuster rules and allow the debt ceiling to be raised by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than 60 to break a stalling tactic -- something McConnell has been fearful his adversaries may actually do with their backs up against the wall.
Could we say the debt ceiling is unconstitutional?Fourteenth Amendment, Section 4:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Funding for much of the federal government runs out at midnight on Friday — and conservative Senate Republicans, backed by their counterparts in the House, are "privately plotting to force a government shutdown" as part of "an effort to defund the Biden administration's vaccine mandate on the private sector," Politico's Playbook reports, citing multiple GOP sources. Democrats are scrambling to get agreement from enough Republicans to fund the government at roughly current levels through early 2022.
"Because of the tight schedule — and Senate rules that require unanimous consent to move quickly — the senators believe they'll be able to drag out the process well past midnight Friday," Politico reports. If they succeed, "the government will likely shut down for several days — even if appropriators strike a bipartisan agreement to extend funding by the end of today."
article said:House and Senate leaders on Thursday announced they had reached a deal on a bill to fund the government into mid-February, opening the door for lawmakers to narrowly avoid a shutdown this weekend.
The agreement on a new stopgap spending measure paves the way for the House to vote before the end of the day, though swift action still seemed uncertain in the Senate, where some Republicans have threatened to grind the government to a halt as they protest President Biden’s vaccine and testing mandates.
article said:While lawmakers are confident that they can ultimately prevent a prolonged shutdown, a brief shutdown over the weekend, or extending into next week, remains a possibility.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah was the latest member of the GOP conference to say Thursday afternoon that he'll object to quick passage of the resolution.
"The only thing I want to shut down is enforcement of an immoral, unconstitutional vaccine mandate," Lee said in Senate floor remarks.
Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas also stood by his opposition, saying he would object to an effort to quickly pass a stopgap bill to keep the government open unless he gets an amendment vote to defund the Biden vaccine mandate on businesses at a 51-vote threshold.
"Shutting down the government is worth saving the jobs in Kansas," he said.
About the bill, from CNBC:Lawmakers are juggling must-pass items, like addressing the nation's borrowing authority and an annual defense authorization package, along with major political priorities for Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pledged to vote before Christmas on Biden's roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better legislation.
"I've said many times before that nobody should expect legislation of this magnitude to be easy," Schumer said this week on the Senate floor. "We've been at the task for several months, but we need to take a step back and recognize that we are hopefully less than a month away from acting on the largest investment in the American people we've seen in generations."
That legislation, which includes major investments in the social safety net and programs to address climate change, passed the House last month. Senate Democrats are now waiting for an assessment from the nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian before they can finalize their version of the bill.
- The measure will keep the government running through Feb. 18.
- The legislation buys Democrats time as they try to raise or suspend the U.S. debt ceiling before Dec. 15 and pass their $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act by the end of the year.
What a mess.The arrangement would first see Congress pass a measure that allows Democrats to raise the debt ceiling just once using a simple majority in the Senate. At least 10 Republicans in the chamber would have to support that bill for it to prevail. Then, Democrats alone could forge ahead with the actual increase to the debt ceiling, which GOP lawmakers could oppose without risking an economic crisis.
Under the plan, at least 10 Senate Republicans would vote to allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority. The Senate could start voting to allow this process Thursday, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s “confident” the plan has enough GOP support.
But both chambers would need to actually hike the debt limit in a separate vote — one that could take until early next week to clear both the House and Senate.