Biden says it’s ‘a real possibility’ Democrats could blow a one-time hole in filibuster to avoid catastrophic defaults

President Joe Biden waves as he walks on the Ellipse after stepping off Marine One in Washington DC on May 17, 2021. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

  • On Tuesday night, Biden opened the door to blow up part of the filibuster to avoid default.

  • He said Democrats are considering it and it’s “a real possibility.”

  • Manchin and Sinema oppose changing the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold, making it a longshot.

  • See more stories on Insider’s company page.

President Joe Biden opened the door on Tuesday night to blow a one-time hole in the filibuster to push through a debt limit hike, saying it was “a real possibility” among Democrats as they sorted by options in the face of Republican opposition to avert a potentially devastating default within two weeks.

Earlier in the day, Biden said “there isn’t much time left to do it through reconciliation,” referring to a legislative maneuver Democrats are using to approve their social spending plan by relying solely on Democratic votes and fierce GOP opposition. to bypass.

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are blocking attempts to renew the US’s ability to pay its bills. They argue that Democrats should unilaterally approve an increase in the debt limit as reconciliation, in the hopes that this will expose them to politically uneasy voices and provide fodder for campaign ads during next year’s midterm elections.

Democrats argue that both parties have a responsibility to repay the debt they’ve built up over the years, especially under the Trump administration. “If only the Republicans could get out of the way, we could get this done,” Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

Senate Democrats are hesitant to reconcile, a dangerous maneuver to undergo with just weeks to go before a critical deadline. Many Democratic senators are beginning to lean towards a one-time filibuster exception if it meant avoiding defaults.

“You could make a one-time exception to save the economy from catastrophe,” Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen told Insider on Tuesday.

Still, some Democrats, including Biden, have long hesitated to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” to change Senate filibuster rules in an effort to approve priorities on immigration reform, gun control and voting rights by a simple majority of votes. Most bills must first pass a 60-vote threshold to become law, an uphill battle for Democrats in a 50-50 Senate.

Republicans in the Senate successfully blocked Biden from carrying out most of his plans using the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold. Despite the GOP blockade, some centrist Democrats, such as Sens. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, insist the filibuster serves as a mechanism to promote compromise with Republicans. Senate Democrats would need the couple’s votes to make a temporary exception and unilaterally push through a debt limit hike, making the maneuver a chance.

It was not immediately clear whether Manchin would be persuaded by the threat of global economic catastrophe to give up his attachment to the filibuster. “Forget the filibuster,” he said reporters Monday.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that if Congress does not intervene by October 18, the US may not be able to pay all its debts. If the US defaults, seniors could be delayed in receiving Social Security checks, and federal unemployment benefits and government health insurance could be cut for low-income people.

Kimberly Leonard contributed reporting.

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