WASHINGTON — President Biden said on Tuesday that Democrats are considering an amendment to Senate filibuster rules to circumvent a Republican block on raising the debt limit, which has put the United States on a collision course with a government default.
“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Mr. Biden said when asked if Democrats are considering the last resort route, which includes making an exception to allow a simple majority debt ceiling bill to pass in instead of the usual 60 votes.
Senate Democrats discussed removing the exception during their weekly luncheon on Tuesday. No conclusions were drawn, but according to the participants, the two strongest opponents of filibuster changes, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, did not protest. They also did not speak out in support.
The move, once almost unthinkable in a room drenched in decorum, has come under discussion as the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats explore ways to avoid a government default without Republican backing. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned lawmakers of “catastrophic” consequences, including a recession and financial crisis, if Congress does not intervene by Oct. 18, when the government is expected to be unable to pay its bills.
On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on whether or not to pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling until December 2022. But with 10 Republican senators needed to join the Democrats, the vote is expected to fail.
Some Democrats have expressed hope that if curbing the filibuster is the only option left, the party could gather 50 votes for the rule change.
Lawmakers have made other exceptions to the filibuster in recent years. In 2017, Senate Republicans created one to clear a path for Neil M. Gorsuch, President Donald J. Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, to take the bench. And in 2013, Senate Democrats did so to overcome Republican opposition to President Barack Obama’s nominees for cabinet posts and judges.
Biden’s comments on Tuesday night, made as he returned to the White House after a trip to Michigan to sell a bipartisan infrastructure package and expanded social spending bill, reflected the president’s increasingly confrontational approach to a divided chamber that gave him a legislative obstacle after another as he tries to pass his domestic agenda.
“As of this week, your savings and your wallet could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt,” Mr Biden said during remarks at the White House on Monday, warning that a failed vote on Wednesday could rattle financial markets, raising stock prices. would rise. lower and interest rates higher. “There is a meteor on its way to our economy,” he said.
The president is also furious at the ultimatum issued by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who has said Democrats must use reconciliation — a more complicated process that can take a week or more to come together — if they want to conquer Republicans. opposition to raising the debt limit.
Understand the US debt ceiling
What is the debt limit? The debt limit is a limit on the total amount the federal government is allowed to borrow through U.S. Treasury bills and savings bonds to meet its financial obligations. Because the US has budget deficits, it has to borrow huge sums of money to pay its bills.
“I respectfully suggest that it is time for you to engage directly with Congressional Democrats on this matter,” Mr. McConnell wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden on Monday. “Your lieutenants in Congress need to understand that you don’t want your united Democratic administration sleepwalking toward avoidable catastrophe when they’ve had nearly three months’ notice to do their job.”
Mr McConnell has said the government should not stop paying its debts; he has also said he will not let any Republican vote to raise the debt limit while stopping Democrats from doing so themselves. Republicans had already gathered to filibuster an earlier bill to raise the debt limit.
Once Republicans raise another debt ceiling on Wednesday, Democrats will have to chart a path forward — and fast.
On Tuesday evening, the White House announced an event to keep up the pressure: a meeting between Mr. Biden and a group of executives on Wednesday to “immediately address the debt cap and the damaging effects on American families, small businesses and the economy if unnecessary delay continues.”
Jonathan Weisman reporting contributed.