December 2, 2021

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Biden raises possibility of ending the filibuster for debt ceiling issue


Late on Tuesday, he told reporters it is a “real possibility” that Senate Democrats will revise the rules to get it done. “There’s not many options if [Republicans are] going to be that irresponsible. … There’s not much time left to do it by reconciliation,” Biden said. He was responding to a question about whether the rules could be changed specifically for the debt ceiling, even, possibly for just this one vote.

“There’s a lot more conversation because Mitch McConnell is threatening to blow up the economy,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat and leader on filibuster reform. “The level of frustration in the [Democratic] caucus has gone through the roof.” That’s evident in what Sen. Chris Coons, a close Biden ally and foot-dragger on filibuster reform, told reporters.


Republicans are not going to rethink their approach. Certainly, 10 of them are not going to buck McConnell to save the country. Something’s gotta give here.

One of the things Democrats have been tossing around, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said is either a one-day elimination of the filibuster to get the debt ceiling vote done, or even carving out the debt ceiling from the filibuster, as they’ve carved out executive and judicial nominations. “I’ve heard some people talk about it, literally, we change the rules for a day, and the rules return for everything the next day. Versus changing it permanently for the filibuster,” he said.

The Democrats need all 50 of their member, plus Vice President Kamala Harris, to break the filibuster. They can go nuclear on this vote like Democrats did in 2013 to end the Republican filibuster on some of Biden’s key executive and judicial nominees, and Republicans did in 2017 to jam the Supreme Court with Trump nominees.

If Democrats are going to suspend the filibuster for a day, they’d better make it count by taking the debt ceiling weapon away from McConnell forever. While they’re having their filibuster-free day, they should make the most of it by passing voting and abortion rights, too.

Of course, there are always the problem children in the room: Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. On Monday, Manchin, who clearly had not been keeping up with the conversation on this issue, said, “The filibuster has nothing to do with debt ceiling. Basically, we have other tools that we can use, and if we have to use them we should use them.” He’s been siding with McConnell, saying the debt hike should be done with reconciliation.

“They got to work through it. Let the leaders work it out, they should work it out. They both know what this country needs,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday, as if he had never met McConnell. Sinema, characteristically, is refusing to say anything about it. Neither reportedly spoke up in Tuesday’s Democratic conference luncheon.


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