House passes new debt ceiling plan after McConnell cuts deal with Democrats

The House took the first step to implement the plan on Tuesday by voting to pass new legislation that will set up the debt limit process. The final vote was 222-212. GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois was the only Republican to join Democrats in voting for the bill.

The new legislation, if advanced with 60 votes in the Senate, would create a temporary fast-track process to allow Senate Democrats to act on their own to increase the debt limit with 51 votes. The legislation outlines that Congress would have to specify the exact dollar amount of a new national debt limit — likely north of $30 trillion. The fast-track process would expire after January 15.

Since 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, 10 GOP votes ultimately are needed to advance any new legislation. McConnell believes that Republicans would be more willing to vote to create a new process on the debt ceiling, rather than raise the debt limit itself, but he’s facing pushback from some of his colleagues who believe he’s giving in too quickly to Democrats.
I don’t think there will be 10 Republican votes to allow the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

McConnell’s deal-making amounts to a sharp shift from his posture in the last standoff, when he insisted that Democrats raise the debt ceiling by using the time-consuming budget reconciliation process. After Democrats refused, the GOP leader ultimately proposed a short-term deal to raise the borrowing limit for about two months and later informed President Joe Biden he wouldn’t be getting Republican cooperation in the next standoff.

But with Republican fortunes on the rise in the 2022 midterms, the wily GOP leader is far more eager to litigate the Biden agenda than potentially provoke a default that could cause a voter revolt at the polls.

Under the plan, both the House and Senate would first have to pass the bill to create the one-time process that allows Senate Democrats to act alone on the debt limit. After that, the House and Senate would then have to take a second set of votes to actually increase the debt limit.

The new legislation, which will be taken up by the House first, will be folded into a more popular bill to prevent cuts to Medicare — making the fast-track process bill easier to swallow.

The new process would ensure the debt ceiling legislation cannot be amended and would be immediately considered by the Senate. Debate would be limited to 10 hours. Once approved, the debt limit hike would be sent to the House.

I’m confident this particular procedure coupled with the avoidance of Medicare cuts will achieve enough Republican support to clear the 60-vote threshold, he said.

McConnell also pushed back on the idea that by brokering a debt limit deal to stave off default with Democrats he has reversed his earlier position of saying that Republicans would not help Democrats deal with the issue.

The red line is intact. The red line is that you have a simple majority, party-line vote on the debt ceiling. That’s exactly where we will end up, he said.

McConnell briefed his caucus behind closed doors about the deal he cut with Democrats. As he was defending the approach as necessary to stave off default while forcing Democrats to “own” the debt ceiling hike, the Senate GOP leader faced criticism in particular over the precedent the plan would set to create a special process to raise the borrowing limit, according to senators who attended the lunch. Moreover, there was criticism that the plan will be folded into a bill to stave off automatic cuts to Medicare, so voting against the plan could be characterized as a vote to impose steep cuts to the popular entitlement program.

Cramer said he told the leader that it’s better to have a plan 40 Republicans vote for such as a debt ceiling hike than to marginalize 10 GOP senators who are forced to advance the bill.

But key Senate Republicans signaled Tuesday they would support the proposal, backed by McConnell, to create an expedited legislative process by which Democrats could raise the debt ceiling without GOP votes.

McConnell briefed his leadership team in the Capitol at noon and several emerged saying they would likely back the deal, even after some had expressed reluctance to the emerging idea on Monday.