The House took the first step in implementing the plan on Tuesday by voting to pass new legislation that will put the debt limitation process in place. The final vote was 222-212. GOP Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois was the only Republican to join Democrats in voting for the bill.
The measure will now have to be taken up by the Senate.
The new legislation, if brought forward with 60 votes in the Senate, would create a temporary fast-track process to allow Senate Democrats to act on their own to raise the debt limit with 51 votes. The legislation says Congress should specify the exact dollar amount of a new national debt limit – likely north of $ 30 trillion. The expedited process would expire after January 15.
Since 60 votes are needed to break a 50-50 Senate obstruction, 10 GOP votes are ultimately needed to move any new legislation forward. McConnell believes Republicans would be more willing to vote to create a new process on the debt ceiling, rather than raising the debt limit itself, but he faces the backsliding of some of his colleagues who believe that ‘he gives in too quickly to the Democrats.
“I don’t think there will be 10 Republican votes to allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling,” said GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
McConnell’s deal is tantamount to a radical departure from his stance in the last standoff, when he insisted Democrats raise the debt ceiling using the tedious budget reconciliation process. After the Democrats ‘refusal, the GOP leader finally came up with a short-term deal to increase the borrowing limit for about two months and later informed President Joe Biden that he would not get Republicans’ cooperation in the next dead end.
But with Republican fortunes on the rise in the mid-term of 2022, the crafty GOP leader is much more eager to advocate for the Biden agenda than to potentially cause a default that could spark a voter revolt at the polls.
While the new process would be faster than using reconciliation, it still involves a complex, multi-step effort.
As part of the plan, the House and Senate are expected to first pass the bill to create the unique process that allows Senate Democrats to act on their own on the debt limit. After that, the House and Senate should then proceed to a second round of votes to actually increase the debt limit.
The new legislation, which will first pass the House, will be incorporated into a more popular bill to prevent cuts to medicare – which will make the fast-track bill easier to swallow.
The new process would ensure that debt ceiling legislation cannot be changed and would be immediately considered by the Senate. The debate would be limited to 10 hours. Once approved, the increased debt limit would be sent to the House.
McConnell predicted on Tuesday that there would be enough GOP support to pass the bill in the Senate.
“I am convinced that this particular procedure combined with the avoidance of cuts in Medicare will generate enough Republican support to cross the 60 vote threshold,” he said.
McConnell also rebuffed the idea that by negotiating a debt limit deal to avoid default with Democrats, he reversed his previous position that Republicans would not help Democrats solve the problem.
“The red line is intact. The red line is that you have a simple majority vote, depending on the party line, on the debt ceiling. This is exactly where we will end up, ”he said.
McConnell faces a pushback on his plan
McConnell briefed his closed-door caucus on the deal he made with the Democrats. While defending the approach as necessary to avoid default while forcing Democrats to “own” the rise in the debt ceiling, the Senate GOP leader has been criticized in particular for the precedent that the plan would create to create a special process to increase the borrowing limit, according to senators who attended the lunch. Additionally, there were criticisms that the plan would be incorporated into a bill to avoid automatic cuts to Medicare, so voting against the plan could be characterized as a vote to force deep cuts. to the popular compensation program.
“There is a lot of concern … that ‘no’ is a bad vote and ‘yes’ is a bad vote,” said Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.
Cramer said he told the leader that “it’s better to have a plan that 40 Republicans vote for,” such as raising the debt ceiling, than “marginalizing” 10 GOP senators who are forced to move the bill forward.
McConnell defended the plan “very calmly, intellectually, honestly,” Cramer said.
Cramer added, “I mean, ‘no’ is the simplest explanation for everything. And a lot of people explain ‘no’ very well, in a really convincing way. But that does not increase the debt ceiling. “
Top Senate Republicans signal support
But senior Senate Republicans signaled on Tuesday that they would support the McConnell-backed proposal to create a fast-track legislative process where Democrats could raise the debt ceiling without GOP votes.
McConnell briefed his leadership team on Capitol Hill at noon and several emerged saying they would likely support the deal, even after some expressed reluctance to the fledgling idea on Monday.
They underscored the inclusion in the plan of three of their top priorities on the issue: it would require Democrats to themselves approve an increase by a specific amount, it would allow for a swift examination on the ground, and it would prevent a damaging default. .
South Dakota’s Republican Whip John Thune has indicated his support for the approach and argued that it will ensure Democrats must “own this massive increase in debt that is going to accommodate all the new spending they want.” want to do ”.
“The majority party has to provide the votes to increase the debt and Democrats know it and they are ready to do it,” Thune said. “They want to own this massive increase in debt that’s going to accommodate all the new spending they want to make and… we think that’s a perfectly appropriate way to handle that. “
“I’m going to argue that Democrats are raising the debt ceiling without any Republican votes,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas who reviewed the plan on Monday before being fully informed. “It achieves the goal of getting Democrats to raise the debt ceiling and be held politically accountable for accumulating more debt.” “
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri who was also skeptical of the proposal on Monday, said he would likely vote for the plan.
“We’ll see what the members say, I would expect I could be for that,” he said.
Blunt said he thinks it is smart to remove the debt measure from the National Defense Permission Act, where leaders originally planned to tie it, because Republicans who want to support the project defense law might have voted “no” because it included the language of debt.
A member of the GOP leadership appeared more skeptical of the proposal, a view that can be shared by many grassroots Republicans.
When asked if she would support the idea, Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst said, “We’ll see. We will see what will happen. ”
GOP Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho said he had “concerns” about the debt limitation plan, but would not detail what they are or how he would vote.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called the plan a “gimmick.”
“They concocted this new gadget to try to force it, but at the end of the day Democrats have the legal power to increase the debt limit using reconciliation,” he told CNN while he was leaving a closed-door Republican meeting where McConnell unveiled The proposal. “They can do it with only Democratic votes, but they keep trying to play politics to try to get Republicans to vote for the debt they have racked up. “
When asked if McConnell made a mistake in making the deal, Cruz said, “I don’t think we should be playing procedural games. He added that “Democrats have the option of raising the debt ceiling” and “they should do it without the involvement of Republicans.”
This story and title was updated with additional development on Tuesday.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.