This week in Washington it’s all about the debt ceiling

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By Lauren Fox, CNN

Congress avoided a government shutdown and Democrats may have been forced to kick on their infrastructure and social safety net program in a hectic situation last week at Capitol Hill.

But to some extent, these agenda items are pale compared to the breadth of the article Congress is due to start dealing this week: The debt ceiling.

The bottom line is that Congress has two weeks to increase the country’s borrowing limit or the repercussions on the country’s financial market and the economy as a whole are dire. Congress is playing with fire, as most members and assistants who deal with it on a daily basis privately acknowledge. The closer the country arrives at the deadline of October 18, the less time there will be to back off a corner and right now neither side is about to blink.

President Joe Biden speaks at 11:15 a.m.ET on Monday, which may provide a clearer picture of what’s next on the debt ceiling. And the Senate votes on Monday night will be an opportunity to gauge how nervous Democrats and Republicans are. arrive at this dead end understood.

Chicken set

The Republicans’ position remains that this is a process the Democrats can handle on their own and that they do not need the help of the GOP. The Senate parliamentarian reiterated this last week (we’ll get to that in a minute).

After several votes, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has stood firm and there is no indication that his pledge not to cast the votes will bend. It’s also worth remembering that even Republicans who have a close relationship with Democrats and are known to cross the aisle during major bipartisan votes are not moving. Remember Senator Mitt Romney from Utah here. The Republican said he has no way of voting to raise the debt ceiling when Democrats have all the levers of government. He thinks so. GOP votes don’t exist.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they did not want to do it themselves using a special budget process known as reconciliation. Schumer has been adamant about it and Pelosi made it clear at her press conference last week that she shared that position. That leaves few options for a way forward and with just two weeks to go until the deadline, Democrats are likely to step back from that ledge soon if they are to have enough time to use reconciliation.

This is not the United Democrat position

It should be noted that there are starting to be cracks in Democratic debt ceiling messages.

Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, told CNN last week that if he thinks Republicans should vote to raise the debt ceiling with Democrats, it is the Democratic Party that holds all the levers of the government. government.

“If they don’t help us, we have to. We have the majority, ”Kaine said.

Senator Dick Durbin, No. 2 Senate Democrat, also notably told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday that the Senate “will do this”.

In what way precisely? They are running out of options.

Logistic

If Republicans don’t give Democrats the vote on the debt ceiling, then Democrats really have another option. They can increase the debt ceiling using the special budget process known as reconciliation. Last week, Republican and Democratic staff spoke to the Senate parliamentarian again for advice on how the debt ceiling could be raised using this process. The parliamentarian made it clear that it could be done, but it would take a little time.

How would it work

  • Democrats should start reconciliation process to raise debt ceiling
  • One vote-a-rama would start the process and another would end the process. These are two more opportunities for Republicans to run all-night voting marathons.
  • Most assistants and members acknowledged that this process could take around two weeks and given where we are on the schedule, that means Democrats need to make a decision quickly if they are going to use it. Leaders are unlikely to advise this so far, although most people watching this closely see no other option.

Both sides recognize that this can happen, but if the reluctance of Democrats to resort to reconciliation has been real. And that’s in part because they believe it is the responsibility of Republicans to help pay off debts incurred together, and because raising the debt limit through reconciliation forces Democrats to vote for exactly by how much they want to increase it. It’s an incredibly difficult vote for Democrats running for re-election.

A quick word about infrastructure

After Friday’s missed deadline, the pressure valve was released. The work is going to continue, but Democrats are going to have to spend the next few weeks really working hard to determine each member’s position on a host of thorny issues, from tax policy to prescription drugs.

This job had not been fully settled until the Democratic leadership in the House pushed hard to get their bills tabled. Now everyone is going to take the time to make sure the differences are ironed out, which means that it may fade for a while. That will take time.

The-CNN-Wire
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