WASHINGTON —Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will not block a debt limit extension into December, making an offer to temporarily end a partisan standoff just 12 days before the government’s deadline to avert default.
McConnell announced Wednesday that Republicans will not filibuster an extension of the debt limit “into December” as long as Democrats put a dollar amount on the increase, giving them more time to enact a long-term solution on their own. The statement from McConnell would appear to offer a short-term fix as the nation faces an October 18 deadline to lift the limit.
“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,” said McConnell in a statement.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said it’s not clear if Democrats will accept McConnell’s offer, as they have yet to digest and discuss it.
Similarly, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a close ally of President Joe Biden, said McConnell’s demand for dollar figure would “likely” be problematic for Democrats. He said they will discuss it.
McConnell’s statement has likely delayed a procedural vote scheduled for Wednesday that would suspend the borrowing limit into next year.The motion needs 60 votes to avert what the Treasury Department warns would be an economic calamity if the country blows past the deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office says the Senate will recess to allow Senate Democrats to meet. A procedural vote on the House-passed debt limit bill is unlikely until this meeting is over. How long that will take is unclear.
Raising warnings that the offer may not end the stalemate, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, criticized McConnell’s proposal, calling him “heartless” and suggesting her party reject it.
“Why should we accept any part of a BS offer?” she said.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., tweeted out quickly after McConnell’s statement was released: “I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling. Period.”
GOP leaders have said for months that they won’t support a debt limit hike, although they insist it must be done. They say Democrats should use the complicated budget reconciliation process to bypass the GOP and lift the debt limit on their own.
But President Joe Biden and Democrats have rejected that approach, calling it cumbersome and time-consuming.
Schumer said earlier on Wednesday that the GOP position blocking an increase was “reckless” and “irresponsible,” calling on them to “get out of the way.”
Before McConnell’s statement, one option that Senate Democrats said they were considering is changing the filibuster rules to allow a simple majority of the Senate to pass a debt ceiling extension. But that would require all 50 Democratic votes, and the party doesn’t appear to have the unity to do so.
Biden added fuel to the prospect by calling that “a real possibility” on Tuesday evening.
Frank Thorp V, Julie Tsirkin, Kyle Stewart and Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.