President Biden suggested Tuesday that Senate Democrats could make a one-time exception to the chamber’s usual 60-vote rule to pass legislation raising the debt ceiling.
“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Biden told reporters at the White House as he returned from a trip to Michigan.
Republicans have insisted they will not support increasing the federal government’s borrowing limit — which Treasury officials say will be reached on Oct. 18 — as long as Democrats attempt to move forward with a social spending bill costing trillions of dollars.
Democrats, for their part, have warned of dire economic consequences if the limit is not raised and argued the GOP has a responsibility to help increase the limit on a bipartisan basis.
Last week, the Senate voted down a House-passed bill to avert a government shutdown that included language to increase the debt limit. A vote on a standalone measure to raise the ceiling is scheduled in the Senate for Wednesday afternoon, and is likely to fall short of the needed 60 votes.
If Senate Democrats go ahead with the filibuster carveout — known as the nuclear option — they would likely need to vote to overturn the chamber rule requiring 60 votes to pass a debt ceiling extension, followed by a vote to pass the extension itself. Both votes could require Vice President Kamala Harris to break a 50-50 tie in favor of the Democrats.
The nuclear option is currently only used for presidential appointments, including Supreme Court justices. It has never before used to override the 60-vote legislative filibuster, though some Democrats have pushed for it in recent years.
However, it’s not clear whether Senate Democrats have the votes to make such a move. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have adamantly opposed weakening the legislative filibuster, though the prospects of a US government default may alter their outlook.
“We are not going to default, let me just make it very clear,” Manchin said Tuesday. “There’s enough good people here to understand the ramifications and we’re not going to do that.”
“I’m not ruling things out,” Manchin added. “I just know there’s enough good people here that will not let this country fall to default … it is not going to happen.”