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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7:28 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

McConnell says talks continue to finalize measure to extend debt ceiling

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said talks are continuing to finalize language on a measure to extend the debt ceiling for two months.

“We’re trading paper, which you always do at this point,” he said when asked about the status of the talks.

McConnell would not say if he thought a deal would be reached tonight.

"I could not predict that,” he said.

McConnell also indicated negotiations would continue tonight on the phone. 

5:25 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

Debt deal still being drafted into legislation, Democratic senator says

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who is a member of the Democratic leadership, said the proposal from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to stave off temporarily the debt ceiling deadline is still being drafted into legislative language and could be voted on later Wednesday or Thursday. 

“At this point we have no language. There is an idea, there is a proposal, (but) there is no proposal in writing,” the Michigan lawmaker said. 

She said she didn’t know if the agreement would suspend the debt ceiling until December or provide an exact value it was being raised to, an issue that has been a sticking point.

Stabenow was pleased the debt crisis was being pushed until December, saying it would give Democrats more time to work on their Build Back Better agenda.

She also acknowledged the potential for a fiscal cliff as the debt bill and government funding may both be expiring that month.

5:02 p.m. ET, October 6, 2021

Democrats say a short-term increase of debt ceiling will give them time to finish their agenda

From CNN's Manu Raju

Several Democratic senators emerged from their caucus meeting, saying that a short-term increase of the debt ceiling will help them finish the work on President Biden's domestic agenda without the threat of an economic collapse.

But they don't want to use the budget reconciliation process because doing so would force them to go through at least one additional round of a "vote-a-rama" — a marathon series of votes that are often used to put senators in a difficult political spot. Also using the budget process would force Democrats to specify the amount they'd raise the debt limit by — rather than just suspending the debt limit.

Democrats say they're concerned about the precedent that would be set by raising the debt limit through this tedious process.

"There's not going to be reconciliation," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Budget Committee.

Asked how they would raise the debt ceiling before December, Sanders said, "We'll see. Around here two months is a lifetime."

Also, Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin did not address the caucus, but Democrats don't believe they have the votes yet to gut the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling.

"Right now, it's unclear," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said when asked if they'd have the votes to gut the filibuster.

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.