Joe Manchin: Democrats hold responsibility for raising debt ceiling unilaterally if GOP refuses


Sen. Joe Manchin III argued Tuesday that if Republicans refuse to support a bipartisan hike to the debt ceiling, then Democrats have the responsibility of doing it unilaterally.

Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, told the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., that lawmakers have an obligation to ensure the “full faith and credit of the county” is not placed in jeopardy by partisan fighting.

“If we can’t do it, and [Republicans] don’t agree on that, Democrats have the responsibility, being the majority party right now, to do it through reconciliation,” Mr. Manchin said.

Any attempt to increase or suspend the debt ceiling, the cap on how much the federal government can borrow to meet expenses, is subject to normal filibuster rules in the Senate. That means that if even one lawmaker objects, then 60 votes are required to cut off debate.

That reality was put to the test earlier this month when Republicans initially refused to support a hike to the debt ceiling, arguing that Democrats should do it unilaterally via budget reconciliation.

The process, which Democrats are poised to use to pass President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social spending bill, allows certain spending and tax measures to avert the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass with a simple majority.

“If Democrats want to use fast-track, party-line procedures to ram through trillions more in inflationary socialism, they’ll have to use the same tools to handle the debt limit,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

After significant back and forth, Mr. McConnell agreed to support a temporary hike to the debt ceiling to avert a default on U.S. debt. The GOP leader made the offer contingent upon Democrats pushing through a long-term fix to the debt ceiling on their own at a later date using reconciliation.

The move kicked the can down the road until at least Dec. 3, when federal spending is likely to hit the new limit.

Despite taking Mr. McConnell’s offer, Democrats have ruled out using reconciliation to dispense with the debt ceiling at a later date. The move is partially political.

Under reconciliation rules, Democrats would have to specify an exact number with which to hike the nation’s borrowing limit. Such a number, which would be above $29 trillion, opens vulnerable Democrats to attack during next year’s midterm elections.

“We’ve made it clear we’re not doing it through reconciliation,” said Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat. “That’s a recipe for a long-term disaster.”

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