Senate Democrats are quietly examining whether there is enough support to exempt debt ceiling increases from the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
Democratic leaders raised the issue at a caucus lunch at the Capitol on Tuesday.
“We have very few options right now, so one of the options is clearly a limited rule change,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat in Connecticut.
Legislators propose a change to the Senate rules specifying that the filibuster, a 60-vote threshold needed to cut off debate on a piece of legislation, does not apply to the debt ceiling. Instead, Democrats say, any increase in the debt ceiling would require a simple majority of 51 votes.
For such a carve-out in all 50 Senate Democrats should support the change. At the moment, the proposal has only received the support of a handful of lawmakers.
No member of the leadership has publicly endorsed the idea. Even if the leaders had, they would still need the support of moderate Democrats who had previously ruled out any change in the filibuster.
One such moderate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, seemed open to the idea but declined to make any commitments.
“The filibuster has nothing to do with the debt ceiling,” Mr Manchin said. “Basically, we have other tools that we can use, and if we have to use them, we have to use them.”
The proposal to Senate rules come as Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over the debt ceiling.
Democrats, led by Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York has sought bipartisan support for a one-year suspension of the federal debt ceiling.
Mr. Schumer initially tried heavily armed Republicans to support the debt suspension by tying it to a short-term government funding measure and disaster relief. That gamble failed in the Senate in the hands of GOP filibuster.
Senate Republicans, led by minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, argue that Democrats should do it unilaterally through budget alignment.
The process, which Democrats are about to use to enact the $3.5 trillion expansion of President Biden’s federal safety net, will allow certain spending and tax measures to Senate‘s 60 votes filibuster threshold and pass by a simple majority.
“If Democrats want to use quick, partisan procedures to push through trillions more inflationary socialism, they’re going to have to use the same tools to tackle the debt cap,” Mr McConnell said.
Democratic leaders are wary of using the process to tackle the debt ceiling, as the reconciliation rules would require them to specify an exact new ceiling for the country’s borrowing limit.
Such an amount, which would be above the current cap of $28.8 trillion, leaves vulnerable Democrats open to attack during next year’s midterm elections.