Lame-Duck Debt Ceiling Deal Unlikely
The White House has largely conceded that a bipartisan debt ceiling hike is unlikely to happen during the lame-duck session that runs through late December, setting the stage for a highly partisan confrontation with the House GOP majority next year.
Senior administration officials also say they don’t have the 50 Democratic votes in the Senate needed to raise the debt ceiling through the budget reconciliation process, thereby avoiding a Republican filibuster. Likely opposition could come from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and possibly other centrist Democrats who believe that debt ceiling hikes should be bipartisan.
House Republicans have been emboldened to use the debt limit as leverage to secure discretionary spending cuts or entitlement reforms. A White House spokesperson said that congressional Republicans will bear the blame for using the debt limit for political gain. “The debt ceiling should never be a matter of political brinksmanship,” the spokesperson told POLITICO. “Congress must once again responsibly address the debt ceiling before its expiration.”
Administration officials expect the Treasury Department to run out of room to keep borrowing money by June. The U.S. government has never defaulted on its debts, but failure to boost the $31.4 trillion borrowing cap would potentially crash markets around the world, send interest rates far higher than they already are and push the economy into a deep recession.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN) and James Lankford (R-OK) all said recently it was extremely unlikely that a debt limit deal can be reached over the next few weeks.
Congress Faces Dec. 16 Funding Deadline
Democrats on the House and Senate Appropriations committees continue to put together FY 2023 spending bills but, with the current CR expiring Dec. 16, another stopgap funding measure appears likely to avoid a government shutdown.
Bipartisan negotiations on an omnibus FY 2023 spending package have been stalled for months, with House and Senate appropriators unable to agree on even a topline figure for overall spending and many lawmakers waiting to see the outcome of this fall’s midterm elections to see what leverage they may have in the next Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters last week he has prepared his caucus for “heavy work” and “long hours” over the few weeks remaining until government funding expires.
The impending retirements of the Senate’s top two negotiators, Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-AL), figure to complicate spending discussions as well.