Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell drew a heavy red line for Republicans negotiating legislative and budget-related deals with President Biden and the Democrats.
Speaking to Punchbowl News in an interview published Wednesday morning, McConnell (R-Ky.) warned he did not expect members of his party to vote for any bill that includes a hike to the debt ceiling, the limit on how much the federal government can borrow.
“I can’t imagine there will be a single Republican voting to raise the debt ceiling after what we’ve been experiencing,” the nation’s top-ranking elected Republican told the outlet from the Capitol.
Going further, McConnell added, “I can’t imagine a single Republican in this environment that we’re in now — this free-for-all for taxes and spending — to vote to raise the debt limit.”
As for a solution, the Kentucky senator offered an unexpected one to Democrats: Include the debt ceiling in their reconciliation package.
“I think the answer is they need to put it in the reconciliation bill,” he said.
Budget reconciliation allows the majority party to bypass the legislative filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
President Biden split the package into two for Congress to pass.EPA
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote. Still, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.
Reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass spending for critical projects, but the process cannot be used to change or create laws.
President Biden split the package, a centerpiece of his post-COVID agenda, into two for Congress to pass.
The first, the “American Jobs Plan,” focused on infrastructure, while the second, the “American Families Plan,” is aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.
Republicans took issue with the second package, which they argue stretches the definition of infrastructure.
The “American Jobs Plan” is focused on infrastructure, while the “American Families Plan” is aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.AP
The current debt limit suspension is slated to expire on July 31, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging lawmakers to act before the end of the month.
Congress has not yet set a date on which it plans to address the matter, which could become increasingly difficult as members look to address an array of other legislative matters on top of infrastructure.
If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling from its current $28.5 trillion by then, Yellen is expected to take special steps to avoid a government default. Such stopgap measures are effective for only a short period, though.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) set up a Wednesday procedural vote on the not-yet-completed bipartisan package despite strong GOP pushback.
The cloture vote is expected to be defeated, with top Republicans including Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) urging the New York Democrat to delay the vote to provide more time to iron out a number of outstanding details.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged lawmakers to act before the end of the month.REUTERS
“We can’t support cloture for something we haven’t accomplished yet. We haven’t come to agreement on key issues,” he told reporters Tuesday.