Chuck Schumer Plans One More Debt Ceiling Vote Today. After That, KABLOOIE.
The fuck-tussle over the debt limit continues on in its inexorable stupidity today, with Republicans continuing to insist they won't act on what's normally a simple matter of authorizing the USA to keep borrowing to pay its national debt, which has been accumulated under presidents and Congresses of both parties. Why? Because Rs are in the minority and they can, is about it. There's the minor detail that if the debt limit isn't increased or suspended, the nation's credit rating will be downgraded, with ripple effects throughout the US and world economies that would likely cause a global recession, but on the other hand, Republicans have the ability to make Democrats be the responsible adults in the room, plus they're confident that any bad news would hurt Democrats more anyway.
Now, Democrats could raise the debt limit on their own, without a single vote from Republicans, by using the budget reconciliation process. As the Source of All World Knowledge explains, that's perfectly cromulent under the weird Senate rules governing reconciliation, and wouldn't get in the way of Democrats' also using reconciliation to pass the Build Back Better bill this year as well. But Majority Leader Chuck Schumer doesn't wanna, for a number of reasons we discuss here, so he's not talking about reconciliation except as a last resort.
Schumer will instead hold one more vote this afternoon on a bill to suspend the debt ceiling until December 2022, safely after the midterm elections. There's no reason at all to think that Republicans will allow the bill to go forward. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), that very moderate gent, has already said he'll vote to filibuster, and fellow GOP "moderate" Susan Collins (R-Maine) has offered an innovative not-quite-a-deal where if Democrats simply give up on Build Back Better bill, then maaayyybe some Republicans might vote to prevent the economy from collapsing, out of the goodness of their hearts and a sense of bipartisan comity.
Oh, fuck both of yez. As Steve Martin said, comity is not pretty.
So what happens after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denies Debt Ceiling Jesus a third time, and the cock crows? As those fun kids at Punchbowl News (brought to you by Chevron) explain, there are several possibilities, and nobody knows which door the big prize, a 1973 AMC Pacer and no economic disaster, is behind. One thing that's fairly certain is that Schumer will have to cancel next week's scheduled recess, since Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government will be flat out of funds to pay its debts by October 18.
Last night, President Joe Biden said there's the possibility that Senate Dems may have little choice but to carve out an exception to the filibuster rule for the debt limit, which would be one way to get the issue over and done with, and permanently, at that. But as with other calls to change the filibuster rules, there's a Joe Manchin-shaped roadblock in the way. Manchin has remained adamant against going nuclear on the filibuster, and as Punchbowl News points out, Manchin "told reporters to 'forget the filibuster' Monday because there are other ways to lift the debt limit" — i.e., reconciliation.
The punch bowlers also suggest that, whatever any carve-out or exception or one-time coupon that expires immediately after use might be built into such a measure, it would ultimately mean the end of the legislative filibuster, to which we say "Good!" We aren't all that frightened by the nightmare scenario Punchbowl lays out:
Remember this McConnell quote from March? "Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin -- can even begin -- to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like," McConnell said on the floor. "None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity, and this is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon."
Think about that. Democrats could win this round, and even pass their broader reconciliation package. But Republicans would drag out every other procedural move for the rest of the 117th so as to make the Senate practically unworkable. It would be a war.
Ah, as opposed to the perfectly normal way the Senate currently operates?
Still, any filibuster modification would require the support of Manchin, who already seems to be skeptical when reconciliation remains an option, and Kyrsten Sinema, who remains as much a mystery as the secret eel breeding grounds. Maybe holding off until the default deadline would change their minds, but that seems a dubious gamble. If it worked, wow, Democrats might pass some stuff, but that feels like a fantasy still.
So that would leave reconciliation, which is what Mitch McConnell wants, and which, as Schumer has said, would require a lot of work and could still be subject to GOP fuckery. Politico looks at the possibility that if Schumer knuckles under and agrees to raise the debt limit that way, some Republicans might even allow the process to move fairly quickly to avoid a default. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told Politico that forcing Dems to use reconciliation would be satisfying enough, without risking economic canned-clamity: "I mean, I'm not going to be a complete asshole about it. But I'm going to make them take some tough votes."
While Graham says he won't be an asshole, Ted Cruz says he's committed to being Ted Cruz. Asked if he'd refrain from delaying tactics if Democrats go the reconciliation route, he said only, "It would depend on the circumstance," explaining that, for the good of the Republic, Schumer must suffer for having the Senate majority:
"The only end place for this political theater is going to be complete surrender by Chuck Schumer, and he knows this," Cruz said.
Cruz is just that kind of good-government sort of guy, you see.
So there's no telling! Maybe reconciliation, maybe a filibuster carve-out, maybe 10 Republicans will decide to act like adults, or maybe Donald Trump will be reinstated and abolish the Senate. It's a very interesting time to be alive.
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