Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday proposed a deal with Democrats that would help them suspend the debt ceiling before the United States defaults.
McConnell in a statement said Republicans would help Democrats expedite the process known as reconciliation to address the debt limit. He also said the GOP would let Democrats pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount, which would cover current spending levels into December.
“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation,” he said. “Alternatively, if Democrats abandon their efforts to ram through another historically reckless taxing and spending spree that will hurt families and help China, a more traditional bipartisan governing conversation could be possible.”
The proposal seeks to quench Democrat complaints that Republicans may seek to delay a reconciliation vote, making it a risky maneuver because the U.S. faces a crisis if the ceiling isn’t suspended or raised by Oct. 18, while reinforcing McConnell’s position that most Republicans won’t vote with Democrats to address the limit.
Democrats were facing the prospect of being unable to muster 60 votes to bypass a filibuster on a House of Representatives bill that would suspend the ceiling until December 2022. A procedural vote on the measure was expected to happen on Wednesday afternoon.
Party leaders have repeatedly exhorted Republicans not to filibuster the bill but McConnell and other top GOP senators say Democrats should turn to reconciliation, which the party has already used once this year and plans to use at least once more to ram through a mammoth, multitrillion spending package.
“Democrats are willing to step up and stop this economic catastrophe if our Republican friends just get out of the way,” President Joe Biden said during a meeting with business leaders at the White House.
Democrats mulled carving out an exception to the filibuster for the debt limit but were stopped by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who refused to back that play.
McConnell’s new statement comes after he harshly criticized Democrats on the Senate floor, noting that Democrats in both legislative chambers have admitted this week they could handle the debt limit crisis using reconciliation.
“Our colleagues have plenty of time to get it done before the earliest projected deadline. There would be potential for time agreements to wrap it up well before any danger, but the Democratic leaders wanted solutions. They wanted to turn their failure into everybody else’s crisis, playing risky games with our economy, using manufactured drama to bully their own members, indulging petty politics instead of governing. Their entire failed approach to governing in a nutshell on full display for the country to see,” he said.
McConnell’s offer “is going to give us a way out of the woods, which is what we want,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Democrats, though, appeared unimpressed.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) unleashed an expletive, telling reporters, “What kind of an offer is that?”
“That sounds like a terrible idea,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added. “I’m obviously willing to listen to any new ideas, but just pushing this crisis off for a couple of months sounds like a disaster. It sounds like an invitation to get downgraded.”
Others were more willing to consider the offer.
“I’m going to have to look at it and see what it is. I want to get this done,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said.