The latest on the debt ceiling standoff in Congress

By Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:10 PM ET, Wed October 6, 2021
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4:29 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

Democrats likely to accept short-term debt ceiling increase, senator says

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Lauren Fox

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, a close ally of President Biden, told CNN that while the caucus was still meeting, his overwhelming impression was that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had blinked and Democrats would look to push ahead with a short-term increase of the debt limit.

“I think we'll end up raising the debt ceiling through December and it gives us the next three months, two months of this ... to focus on finishing the Build Back Better agenda,” said Coons. 

“Mitch McConnell blinked and it allows us to spend from here until November focused on finalizing the Build Back Better plan.. So I think that's progress.”

Coons, however, warned that Democrats would not increase the debt limit using reconciliation, even if they kick the can down the road.

He also suggested that Democrats were not exactly clear how much the debt ceiling would have to be increased by and that they are waiting for an estimate from the Treasury Department or the Congressional Budget Office.

4:37 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

White House responds to McConnell offer and says "we don't need to kick the can" on debt limit

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House press secretary Jen Psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki (Pool)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a pair of proposals from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to avert a default on the debt limit Wednesday, telling reporters, “We could get this done today, we don't need to kick the can, we don't need to go through a cumbersome process that every day brings additional risks.”

Psaki told reporters Wednesday, “there's been no formal offer made — a press release is not a formal offer, adding “even the scant details that have been reported present more complicated more difficult options than the one that is quite obvious in the President's view, and it's in front of the faces of every member up on the Hill.”

Some more context: In a statement on Wednesday, McConnell said that Republicans have "already made it clear" that they would "assist in expediting" a process known as reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to raise the debt limit without GOP votes. Democrats have been generally opposed to that idea, however, calling it too unwieldy, time-consuming and risky.

In addition to that, McConnell said that Republicans "will also 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." 

The Senate had been slated to take a procedural vote later in the afternoon on whether to advance a House-passed bill to suspend the nation's debt limit until December 2022, and Republicans had been expected to block the measure.

Psaki told reporters at Wednesday’s briefing that the White House will “obviously be in close touch with them as we will continue to be, and we'll see where we where we are at the end of today.”

 

4:55 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

Senator says Democrats will likely take GOP deal on debt limit: "We intend to take this temporary victory"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (CNN)

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she believes congressional Democrats are willing to accept one of the offers from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to raise the nation's debt limit.

“In terms of a temporary lifting of the debt ceiling through close to the end of this year, we view that as a victory, we view it as a temporary victory though with more work to do,” she told CNN's Jake Tapper on Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday, McConnell said Republicans have "already made it clear" that they would "assist in expediting" reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to raise the debt limit without GOP votes. Democrats have been generally opposed to that idea, however, calling it too unwieldy, time-consuming and risky.

In addition, McConnell said Republicans "will also 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."

Republicans have offered two options for temporarily lifting the debt ceiling. The first would be a clean reconciliation package that wouldn't involve Republicans at all, but with the caveat that Republicans wouldn't try to do anything to get in the way of the process or slow it. The other would be a temporary allowance of bringing a bill to the floor without any type of filibuster or blocking of the legislation but in agreement for just a short-term lifting of the debt ceiling tied to a specific number. 

“We intend to take this temporary victory and then try to work with Republicans to do this on a longer term basis,” she said.

"I believe that's what we are going to do," she said, when pressed by CNN's Jake Tapper to clarify. Baldwin also noted, however, that she had stepped out of an ongoing caucus meeting on the issue in order to speak with Tapper.

4:21 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

Sanders calls on Manchin to offer up a specific counter proposal to spending package

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

(Pool)
(Pool)

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, who has avoided talking about Sen. Joe Manchin’s role in the reconciliation negotiations, today told reporters that it is time for the West Virginia Democrat to step up and tell his fellow senators what he is willing support in the package.

Sanders argued that Manchin has talked in vague generalizations about his lack of support for the broad $3.5 trillion expansion of the social safety net and climate change provisions. Sanders challenged Manchin to put his cards on the table and make a deal.

“Now Sen. Manchin, as I understand it, talked today about not wanting to see our country become an entitlement society. Well, I am not exactly sure what he means by that,” Sanders said before listing off examples of programs in the bill he believes would improve Americans' lives and challenging Manchin to state what exactly he is opposed to. 

“Look, it's very easy to use vague phraseology, even when you talk about your support for one and half trillion. I understand it, Sen. Manchin says he believes in Medicare negotiating prescription. Okay good. In the House bill that will save us $700 billion. So Sen. Manchin says that he only wants to spend 1.5 trillion — is that in addition to the 700? Which would take us up to 2.2? I don't know the answer,” he said.

Sanders did say that he is willing to negotiate but refused to say specifically that the overall price tag of the package will have to come down.

“What I do believe is that $3.5 is too little, to be frank with you,” Sanders said. “But I what I have said is that there is going to be a give and take and this is part of the process and we will be in the room for that give and take.”

Sanders also said that Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema needs to be clear about where she stands as well.

“As I understand it, you know I'm not privy to everything, in some cases you guys know more than I do, but I think Sen. Sinema’s position has been that she doesn't 'negotiate publicly,' and I don’t know what that means,” Sanders said.

3:29 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

Democrats expected to postpone procedural debt ceiling vote to review McConnell proposal

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, confirmed to CNN's Ted Barrett that Democrats plan to delay the 3 p.m. ET procedural vote on the debt limit to discuss internally the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposal.

Other GOP senators said similar— the vote is postponed for now.

The Democratic caucus meeting on the debt ceiling will happen after a current nomination vote ends, a Democratic aide tells CNN. 

They will decide then whether to proceed with this vote, make a counteroffer to McConnell or accept his proposal, according to this source. 

More on McConnell's proposal: In a statement on Wednesday, McConnell said that Republicans have "already made it clear" that they would "assist in expediting" a process known as reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to raise the debt limit without GOP votes. Democrats have been generally opposed to that idea, however, calling it too unwieldy, time-consuming and risky.

In addition to that, McConnell said that Republicans "will also 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."

It remains to be seen how Democrats will respond to the proposal floated by McConnell.

CNN's Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav contributed reporting to this post. 

2:42 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

McConnell confirms he's floating two options to offer Democrats to raise debt limit

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Ted Barrett and Lauren Fox

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement with his proposal that the GOP will allow Democrats to pass a short-term debt limit extension through December (with a specific dollar amount) using “normal procedures” instead of reconciliation to give them time to go through the cumbersome budget process to raise the debt limit for a longer period, confirming CNN's earlier reporting that he's putting two potential options on the table.

McConnell also said that Republicans would be willing to "assist in expediting the 304 reconciliation process for stand-alone debt limit legislation."

Additionally, McConnell reiterated that if Democrats ditch their agenda a bipartisan debt ceiling suspension “could be possible.”

“To protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis, we will also 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,” he said in a statement.

“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation. 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 continued.

Where things stand now: The Senate is slated to take a procedural vote later today on whether to advance a House-passed bill to suspend the nation's debt limit until December 2022, which Republicans are expected to block.

Democrats and Republicans remain locked in a stalemate over how to address the debt limit and it's not yet clear if there could be a breakthrough to end the impasse this week.

CNN's Clare Foran, Ali Zaslav, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju contributed reporting to this post. 

2:20 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

McConnell is weighing 2 ideas to offer Schumer on the debt limit, GOP source says

From CNN's Manu Raju

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is floating two ideas to offer Democrats on how to raise the debt limit, according to a Republican source briefed on the matter.

  1. He is proposing a short-term raise of debt ceiling (with a specific number they would raise the debt limit to). It would go through November until the beginning of December.
  2. Or he is offering an expedited path through the budget reconciliation process, with limited floor debate and limited number of amendments. The process allows lawmakers to bypass the 60-vote threshold typically required for breaking filibusters and moving legislation forward. Democrats currently control exactly 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber, and Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote in her capacity as Senate president. That's enough for Democrats to be able to use reconciliation to pass some kinds of legislation.

GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said earlier that McConnell plans to make a proposal to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this afternoon.

2:08 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

McConnell will make proposal to Schumer this afternoon to raise debt limit, GOP senator says

From CNN's Manu Raju

From left to right, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
From left to right, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to make a proposal to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this afternoon to raise the debt limit, according to GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Murkowski told reporters that after the vote this afternoon to advance a House bill suspending the debt limit, which Republicans are expected to block, McConnell will outline a proposal that he’s prepared to discuss with Schumer on addressing the debt limit.

Asked what she expects after today’s vote, Murkowski said, “I think you’re gonna hear from Leader McConnell. He’s gonna outline the proposal that he is prepared, I think, to discuss with Sen. Schumer... and I think that’ll give us a way out of the woods, which is what we want.”

She declined to provide further details on what’s in McConnell’s proposal.

The expectation is it would be a short-term suspension of the debt limit. A separate GOP source said it is expected to go until December.

GOP senators are meeting right now.

Why this matters: Senate Democrats and Republicans have been in a standoff over raising the debt ceiling. Even though Congress has in the past raised the debt ceiling with a bipartisan vote, McConnell has repeatedly vowed that Republicans will not vote to raise it.

Democrats are able to raise the debt ceiling on their own without Republican votes, but they would need to use the lengthy reconciliation process to do so. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have said they are not willing to use that process and instead have been looking for Republicans to cooperate with paying the nation's bills.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last month that the nation will run out of money to pay its bills on Oct. 18, leaving the US facing default for the first time in its history, which would be economically devastating.

CNN's Arlette Saenz, Betsy Klein and Kate Sullivan contributed reporting to this post. 

1:40 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

Biden on raising the debt limit: "We need to act"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden urged lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling before the Oct. 18 deadline.

"We need to act. These leaders know the need to act. The United States pays its bills. It's who we are, it's who we've been, it's who we're going to continue to be, God willing. That's what's called the full faith and credit in the United States," Biden said in remarks ahead of a meeting with heads of US businesses at the White House.

"Let me be clear. Raising the debt limit is paying our old debts. This has nothing to do with new spending or what may be coming this year or other years. It has nothing to do with my plans on infrastructure or Building Back Better, both of which are paid for, but they're not even in the queue right now. It's about paying what we owe and preventing a catastrophic event occurring in our economy," Biden said.

Biden warned of catastrophic implications if the US defaults on its debt.

There is a procedural vote today on the debt ceiling, but Republicans are expected to block it.

He said he finds Senate Republicans' position "to be not only hypocritical but dangerous and a little disgraceful."

"We had to raise the debt limit three times when Donald Trump was President. And the Republicans moved to raise it each time, and each time the Democrats supported the effort to raise the debt. But now Republicans won't raise the debt limit," he said.