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Manchin won’t back Dems’ filibuster carve-out on debt ceiling

Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to changing the Senate’s legislative filibuster in an attempt to raise the debt ceiling, one day after he told reporters he is “not ruling things out.”

“I’ve been very, very clear where I stand on the filibuster,” Manchin told a gaggle of reporters. “Nothing changes.” 

Despite his opposition to the Democrat’s back-up, a so-called “nuclear option” that involves voting for an exception to the filibuster rule for the debt limit vote, Manchin vowed the US “will not default.” 

“The only thing I can say at this time to Leader Schumer, and to know Minority Leader McConnell is please, please, please work together. This is a democracy, democracy only works when all sides work to the same common goal,” he added. 

The day before, however, the West Virginia senator said, “I’m not ruling things out.”

“I just know there’s enough good people here that will not let this country fall to default … it is not going to happen.”

Democrats are looking to raise the debt limit before Oct. 18 to avoid defaulting. 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 necessary 60 votes.

Republicans, particularly Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have urged Democrats to raise the debt ceiling without any GOP votes through reconciliation. 

“Our colleagues have plenty of time to get it done before the earliest projected deadline,” McConnell said in Wednesday’s Senate session. 

Manchin urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to
Manchin urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to “please, please, please work together.”
Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

“There would be potential for time agreements to wrap it up well before any danger, but the Democratic leaders wanted solutions. They wanted to turn their failure into everybody else’s crisis, playing risky games with our economy, using manufactured drama to bully their own members, indulging petty politics instead of governing.”

The minority leader has long urged Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own, and in a letter to Biden Monday, told the president: “Bipartisanship is not a light switch that [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and [Senate Majority] Leader [Chuck] Schumer may flip on to borrow money and flip off to spend it.

“Republicans’ position is simple,” McConnell went on. “We have no list of demands. For two and a half months, we have simply warned that since your party wishes to govern alone, it must handle the debt limit alone as well.”

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. To invoke the option, the party would need total unity. 

Democrats have been wary to raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation as it would create a second reconciliation bill alongside the massive $3.5 trillion spending package. 

Per the Senate parlimentarian’s office, the second bill would not have any impact on the larger package and would still allow for Democrats to raise the ceiling once reaching 50 votes.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki emphasized that the Biden administration doesn’t want to take that approach.

McConnell has asked Democrats to raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation without Republican support.
McConnell has asked Democrats to raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation without Republican support.
Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

“As you know, the reconciliation process would mean essentially starting from scratch. And the point is, why wouldn’t it be the preference,” Psaki said, referring to moving the $3.5 trillion House-passed bill forward. “Why, for everybody involved, Democrats, Republicans, the American public. We have a bill that we could vote up or down to raise the debt limit. It’s a much easier, cleaner, simpler, less risky process.”

Biden too has pushed against the reconciliation option, likening the situation to Ethiopia. 

“There is a process that I understand the Republican leader is willing to initiate, go through, that would require literally up to hundreds of votes,” he said. “It’s unlimited number of votes having nothing directly to do with the debt limit; it could be everything from Ethiopia to anything else that has nothing to do with the debt limit.  And it’s fraught with all kinds of potential danger for a miscalculation, and it would have to happen twice.”

Regardless of Manchin’s opposition, the president has suggested the filibuster is a viable option. 

“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Biden told reporters at the White House as he returned from a trip to Michigan Tuesday.

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