Republican leaders are struggling to convince 10 Republicans to vote to advance a short-term increase of the debt ceiling, a bind they’re in after months of saying Democrats would have to raise it on their own.
GOP senators emerged from a closed-door conference meeting in the US Capitol refusing to commit to vote for the debt ceiling with some opposed to the deal Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cut with Democrats and many saying they were undecided.
In the closed-door lunch, GOP leaders tried to convince all their members to forgo a procedural vote on the measure – something that would require 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats for it to advance – and instead consent to move directly to a final vote on the measure when it could pass on a majority vote with just Democratic votes.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas, said the issue remains “unresolved” and that the leaders are continuing their “due diligence” to win over those members and that work will continue this afternoon.
“I think most of us would like to get out of here. We know what the outcome is going to be so why put through everyone through a delay and inconvenience by keeping us here for an inevitable outcome,” Cornyn said.
Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican of South Dakota, said GOP senators may huddle again later Thursday to try to resolve their differences.
Cornyn acknowledged their members are so unhappy with having to vote to advance the debt limit – something McConnell had said repeatedly the Democrats would do on their own — there is a possibility that Republicans could not provide the needed 10 votes.
“That’s one possibility, which is not good,” said Cornyn who would not commit to voting to advance it himself.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican of Wisconsin, said he would vote against the debt ceiling increase but said he prefers just to let the Democrats vote on their own.
“I’m not going to facilitate this. I’m not going to object. I hope no Republicans object. Just let the Democrats do what they have to do,” Johnson said.
More details on the GOP meeting: In the lunch, according to senators who attended, McConnell told his caucus members that passing the increase was important to prevent a default and that the deal they struck for a short-term extension would require Democrats to pass a long-term extension on their own in December using budget reconciliation.
The deal also requires Democrats to vote for a specific value of the debt ceiling, not just a suspension, a key demand of Republicans, McConnell told his members.
As he left the meeting, McConnell said, “I certainly hope not,” when asked by a reporter if the Senate would likely be in session Saturday to process the bill.
McConnell declined to respond when asked if the GOP could muster the 10 votes if necessary.
Retiring Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top GOP appropriator, said he would vote “to keep the government going” and that he expected other GOP leaders to vote for it as well.