Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
October 5, 2021

As the debt ceiling standoff continues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) set up a vote on Wednesday to increase the federal government’s borrowing ceiling, but didn’t lay out how Democrats planned to pass a bill without Republican votes.  Leader Schumer warned earlier Monday that lawmakers must act by the end of the week to avoid any repercussions.  Late Monday, he took steps to have a Senate vote on legislation passed last week by the House to raise the debt ceiling through December 16th, 2022.  But Republicans already telegraphed that they would block the bill during a vote likely to occur on Wednesday.  Sixty votes are needed to clear a procedural hurdle, and the Senate is divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats will discuss the issue at their closed-doors lunch Tuesday and Democratic leadership has so far ruled out putting reconciliation on the table, noting that Republicans could allow them to raise the debt ceiling with only their votes by not requiring 60 votes for a stand-alone debt ceiling bill.   But some Democratic senators are opening the door to using the budget process if they can’t find another way to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.  For that to happen, the most likely path forward for Senate Democratic Leadership is the Senate Budget Committee must produce a resolution that includes instructions to raise the debt ceiling, which must then pass the House and Senate and weather a barrage of hostile amendments. Then the House must draft and vote on a separate bill to lift the debt ceiling, which would then go to the Senate, where it could not be filibustered but would again have to survive a vote-a-rama where any proposal could be considered, and if any were adopted, the measure would be forced back to the House, all of this would need to be completed by October 18th.

As the debt ceiling plays out, negotiations continue on the size of the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill.  Today, Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) signaled he is open to a budget reconciliation bill in the ballpark of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion, above the limit he set just last week of $1.5 trillion.  On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is meeting with her committee chairs to begin to recalibrate the size of the package.  Today, also sees President Joe Biden traveling to Michigan to historically conservative Livingston County in an effort to churn up support for a bipartisan infrastructure plan and other legislative priorities currently stalled in Congress.

For today, the Senate will continue work on the nomination Paloma Adams-Allen to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and the nomination of Lauren J. King to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington.

The House continues to be in committee work weeks until Tuesday, October 19th, when it will return for votes.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.