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Senate leaders announce debt limit deal

7October 2021

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., reaches a deal with Republicans for a short-term increase of the debt ceiling. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Andrew Harnik/AP

Andrew Harnik/AP

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell say they have a deal to avoid the immediate threat of default by shifting the debt limit deadline to early December.

Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the agreement on the Senate floor Thursday morning and said the leaders hope to pass the bill, which would increase the borrowing limit by $480 billion, as soon as Thursday afternoon. The Treasury Department estimates that amount should be sufficient to keep the debt payments flowing until Dec. 3.

But the agreement does nothing to resolve the broader standoff between the two parties over how to pass a long-term solution.

McConnell went to the Senate floor shortly after the deal was announced to reiterate that he wants Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a debt limit hike — a plan Democrats have repeatedly rejected.

“The pathway our Democratic colleagues have accepted will spare the American people any near-term crisis while definitively resolving the majority’s excuse that they lack the time to address the debt limit through the 304 reconciliation process,” McConnell said. “Now there will be no question, they will have plenty of time.”

Democrats say they are not going to cave to McConnell’s demands. They argue that tying the debt limit to budget reconciliation creates a dangerous precedent and allows Republicans to skirt their responsibility for debt that has already been accrued.

Reconciliation allows the Senate to pass some budget and spending related legislation without the threat of a filibuster but it has limitations. It is traditionally a tool that can only be used once every fiscal year. Recent interpretations from the Senate Parliamentarian, the non-partisan rule keeper in the Senate, allow for some narrow exceptions to the once-a-year rule, but it is still a limited tool.

Democrats are also wary of being forced into a procedural corner by McConnell. The fight over that process has not been addressed with this agreement, meaning the bitter fight will likely continue for the next two months.

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