Democrats expected to take short-term debt ceiling increase, reject GOP reconciliation offer


(WASHINGTON) — Senate Democrats emerged from a closed door special caucus meeting on the debt ceiling on Wednesday and said they intend to take GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell up on his short-term debt ceiling increase.

Multiple senators and aides told ABC News Democrats are rejecting McConnell’s other offer that would have Republicans expediting Democrats passing a longer-term debt ceiling increase using the budget reconciliation process that they’re using to pass the multi-trillion dollar social spending bill.

“McConnell caved! McConnell caved,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told reporters with a fist raised.

“We intend to take this temporary victory and then try to work with the Republicans to do this on a longer-term basis,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., told CNN.

“There’s not going to be reconciliation,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told reporters emphatically, adding that the short term fix must pass as soon as possible.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., agreed, saying she was glad McConnell “folded“ and said Democrats would “never“ use reconciliation to increase the debt ceiling.

It’s unclear if a vote on the new proposal would occur Wednesday night or Thursday, though the latter appeared more likely.

As the U.S. barrels toward an unprecedented default in a game of brinkmanship on Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered Democrats two options to increase the debt ceiling on Wednesday. Both options require that Democrats increase the ceiling by a specific amount, which the party has not wanted to do, fearing political implications of an increase to the nation’s borrowing limit approved solely by Democrats.

Democrats rejected an offer for that Republicans to help Democrats expedite the budget process known as reconciliation to hike the debt limit by a specified amount but instead took a short-term increase of the debt ceiling to a specified amount for two months — until December.

It comes after Republicans have refused to allow Democrats to move forward on raising the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote, subsequently preventing the country from entering a self-inflicted financial crisis, potentially worse than the 2008 crisis.

“Republicans remain the only party with a plan to prevent default,” McConnell said, though he has maintained for weeks that Democrats should go the process alone. “We have already made it clear we would assist in expediting the 304 reconciliation process for stand-alone debt limit legislation. 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.”

While some Democrats took short-term extension as a win, Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said McConnell’s two offers were “BS,” adding the GOP leader is “heartless” and, sarcastically, “He could give a rip.”

Asked by ABC News’ Mariam Khan if Schumer should accept one of McConnell’s options, given the nation is on a deadline, Hirono replied, “Why should we accept any part of a BS offer?”

Ahead of McConnell’s proposition, Senate Republicans had planned to filibuster a House-passed measure on Wednesday that would suspend the debt limit until December 2022. At least 10 Republicans would need to join all Senate Democrats to break the GOP filibuster and allow a simple majority vote to pass the bill — which President Joe Biden has called for, telling Republicans at a meeting with business leader earlier to “get out of the way.”

Without Republican support, Biden and other Democrats raised carving out an exception to ending the filibuster for the debt ceiling vote, which would take the support of all 50 Democratic senators — but it doesn’t seem to be a pathway forward either.

Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who along with fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has balked at changes to the filibuster rules, dug into his position earlier, putting the responsibility of the economic crisis squarely on the shoulders of Senate leaders to solve.

“This should not be a crisis. I’ve been very, very clear where I stand, where I stand on the filibuster. I don’t have to repeat that. I think I’ve been very clear. Nothing change,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But the bottom line is we have a responsibility to be the adults. Our leadership has the responsibility to lead.”

“The only thing I can say at this time to Leader Schumer, and to Leader McConnell, please, lead, work together,” he added.

Schumer had said earlier on the floor that the Senate must move forward with “the responsible thing and vote to allow the U.S. to keep paying its bills.”

“Republicans’ obstruction on the debt ceiling over the last few weeks has been reckless and irresponsible but nevertheless, Republicans will today have the opportunity to get what they’ve been asking for,” Schumer said in the morning. “The first and easiest option is this: Republicans can simply get out of the way, and we can agree to skip the filibuster vote so we can proceed to final passage of this bill.”

But Republicans letting Democrats govern so easily, despite Democrats suspending the debt ceiling multiple times in a divided Washington under former President Donald Trump.

GOP leaders have maintained for months that Democrats must act to raise the federal debt limit on their own, because they have total control of Washington and are planning to pass a multi-trillion social and economic package without Republican support.

But Democrats and Biden have reiterated that paying off U.S. debt is a historically bipartisan measure and that the funds Congress would be approving were spent, in part, under then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell.

McConnell has said repeatedly that Democrats should have to hike the debt limit to cover the cost of potentially trillions in yet-passed parts of Biden’s agenda, though the debt limit must be raised to cover spending that already took place under the Trump administration with unified GOP support.

Amid Democrats’ calls for carving out the filibuster, McConnell told members in a lunch meeting about the two options: a short-term extension or an expedited reconciliation process — but those would also give Republicans exactly what they’re asking for politically: an increase to the nation’s borrowing limit approved solely by Democrats, for the GOP to seize on in midterms.

White House economists and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have warned that without action, Americans will feel the real-world effects of a self-inflicted economic crisis in the coming days. Consequences include delays to Social Security payments and checks to servicemembers, a suspension of veterans’ benefits, and rising interest rates on credit cards, car loans and mortgages.

ABC News’ Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

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