U.S. President Joe Biden indicated Tuesday senators from his Democratic Party could bypass a supermajority voting rule in order to increase the nation’s debt limit without Republican votes.
“It’s a real possibility,” Biden told reporters outside the White House.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the government will likely reach its borrowing limit by October 18 unless Congress acts.
Coming too close to the borrowing limit has its perils. A debt ceiling dispute in 2011 that Congress resolved two days before the borrowing limit was reached caused stock prices to fall and the first-ever credit downgrade for U.S. debt.
Under Senate rules, 60 votes are needed to advance the legislation instead of a simple majority vote. The chamber is evenly divided between the Democratic and Republican caucuses, and Republicans already blocked two efforts to raise the debt limit last week.
Making an exception to the supermajority rule, also known as the filibuster, would allow Senate Democrats to bypass Republican opposition, if all 50 are in unison.
Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, wants Democrats to raise the debt ceiling without Republican votes and using a more convoluted process known as reconciliation, that Democratic leaders have said will be time consuming and raise uncertainty as the deadline nears.
“They have the time to do it. And the sooner they get about it, the better,” McConnell said at a news conference Tuesday.
Democrat Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, accused Republicans of manufacturing a crisis as he announced a Wednesday vote on a bill to raise the debt limit already passed by the House of Representatives.
“If Republicans want to vote ‘no’ tomorrow, if they really want to be the party of default, that’s their choice,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
The national government’s debt now stands at $28.4 trillion.
The United States has for decades imposed limits on its borrowing, but Congress has always raised the debt ceiling or lifted it entirely for a period of time to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debts, averting a worldwide financial crisis spawned by the biggest global economy.
Even a close call would likely be damaging. A 2011 debt ceiling dispute, which Congress resolved two days before the borrowing limit was due to have been reached, caused stocks to tumble and prompted a first-ever credit downgrade for U.S. debt.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.