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McConnell cuts deal with Democrats on new plan to avoid default

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By Clare Foran and Manu Raju, CNN

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached an agreement to create a one-time process that would let Democrats raise the debt ceiling on their votes alone, a deal that underscores the lengths the GOP leader will go to avoid a damaging default without Republican support to increase the national borrowing limit.

The new legislation, if passed in the House and advanced with 60 votes in the Senate, would create a temporary fast-track process to allow Senate Democrats to act on their own to increase the debt limit with 51 votes. The legislation specifies that Congress would have to specify the exact dollar amount of a new national debt limit — likely north of $30 trillion — and that the fast-track process could only be used until January 15.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the debt limit could be reached on December 15 — otherwise the US would suffer financial catastrophe and endure its first-ever default.

The legislative gymnastics to avoid a default underscore how Republicans in particular are eager to avoid both an economic calamity and the backlash for casting a political toxic vote of raising the borrowing limit. Since 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, 10 GOP votes ultimately are needed to advance any new legislation. McConnell believes that Republicans would be more willing to vote to create a new process on the debt ceiling, rather than raise the debt limit itself, but he’s facing pushback from some of his colleagues who believe he’s giving in too quickly to Democrats.

“I don’t think there will be 10 Republican votes to allow the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling,” said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

McConnell’s deal-making amounts to a sharp shift from his posture in the last standoff, when he insisted that Democrats raise the debt ceiling by using the time-consuming budget reconciliation process. After Democrats refused, the GOP leader ultimately proposed a short-term deal to raise the borrowing limit for about two months and later informed President Joe Biden he wouldn’t be getting Republican cooperation in the next standoff.

But with Republican fortunes on the rise in the 2022 midterms, the wily GOP leader is far more eager to litigate the Biden agenda than potentially provoke a default that could cause a voter revolt at the polls.

While the new process would be quicker than the use of reconciliation, it still sets up a complex multi-step effort.

Under the plan, both the House and Senate would first have to pass the bill to create the one-time process that allows Senate Democrats to act alone on the debt limit. After that, the House and Senate would then have to take a second set of votes to actually increase the debt limit.

The new legislation, which will be taken up by the House first, will be folded into a more popular bill to prevent cuts to Medicare — making the fast-track process bill easier to swallow.

The new process would ensure the debt ceiling legislation cannot be amended and would be immediately considered by the Senate. Debate would be limited to 10 hours. Once approved, the debt limit hike would be sent to the House.

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