Democrats have lost their ability to blame Republicans and Sen. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) if they fail to raise the debt ceiling by a Treasury-imposed deadline of October 18 after McConnell on Tuesday offered them a compromise deal that would temporarily avert the crisis.
McConnell said in a press conference that Republicans would allow a two-month debt ceiling increase bill to pass the Senate if it had a fixed amount that would take care of spending through December as currently budgeted.
“To protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis, we will … allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December,” McConnell said.
As an alternative, he also said that he would allow a budget reconciliation bill to pass through the Senate faster to meet the October 18 deadline if Democrats wanted to use that process to handle the debt limit rather than a bipartisan bill.
Democrats in Recess
Senate Democrats took a recess from their regularly scheduled business–a confirmation hearing–on Tuesday afternoon to consider the proposals, according to The Hill.
They had been trying to blame Republicans for a possible default on U.S. obligations that would result from their failure to raise or suspend the debt ceiling. Given that Democrats control both houses of Congress and the presidency, they don’t need any Republican votes to raise or suspend the debt ceiling.
Republicans were refusing to pass their bill, which would have suspended the debt ceiling entirely through 2022, because they were opposed to a proposed $3.5 trillion in new spending that Democrats were trying to pass through budget reconciliation and feared they would see passage as permission for even more spending.
Democrats had also tied the debt ceiling bill to other legislation Republicans opposed.
Democrat reaction mixed
McConnell also said a bipartisan discussion on raising the debt ceiling could be had if Democrats dropped their plans for $5 trillion in new spending in the form of two huge “infrastructure” bills.
“Alternatively, if Democrats abandon their efforts to ram through another historically reckless taxing and spending spree that will hurt families and help China, a more traditional bipartisan governing conversation could be possible,” he said.
Democrat reaction to McConnell’s proposals was initially mixed, with Sen. Maizie Hrono (D-HI) calling McConnell “heartless” and urging Democrats not to go for the deal, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) saying it was “a step forward.”
At this point, McConnell has bent over backwards to fix this problem for the Democrats without giving them an effective blank for their spending plans. Now it’s up to them whether they grab onto the solution or remain too subborn to do so.