After another day of seemingly positive, but not decisive, talks between President Joe Biden, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and other Congressional leaders, it appears that the White House may be closer than ever to a deal with Republicans to make some spending cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase.
It’s a move Democrats have decried as they have sought out other means of bypassing Republican leadership in the House to get a clean debt ceiling increase. Those plans have included using Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional and just spending like there’s no tomorrow.
But such a move would create a constitutional crisis, and several members of the Biden administration – including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen – have seemed very wary of such a solution.
Another move being considered by House Democrats is a discharge petition, a move that would bring a bill straight to the House floor by bypassing leadership. It’s a procedural move that is rarely used, but as of this morning, it looks like Democrats are going to go with it.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to break this news.
WASHINGTON—House Democrats plan to begin collecting signatures Wednesday for a discharge petition to raise the debt ceiling, a long-shot parliamentary maneuver designed to circumvent House Republican leadership and force a vote.
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.), the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said he plans to initiate the petition in the well of the House when the chamber gavels into session at 10 a.m. and be the first to sign.
“We only have two weeks to go until we may hit the x-date,” he said, referring to possible default. “We must raise the debt ceiling now and avoid economic catastrophe.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday morning backing the petition effort. Jeffries cited the “urgency of the moment” and said it was important to pursue all legislative options in the event that negotiators are unable to reach any agreement.
This comes the day after the White House said in a statement that Biden feels confident that a deal would be reached.
*WHITE HOUSE SAYS BIDEN OPTIMISTIC ON BIPARTISAN BUDGET DEAL
*WHITE HOUSE SAYS BIDEN TOLD STAFF TO MEET DAILY ON DEBT TALKS
Full statement: pic.twitter.com/jYgw0bERkY
— Kailey Leinz (@kaileyleinz) May 16, 2023
It’s not the first time the White House has signaled it will deal with Republicans. However, the fact that Biden is “optimistic that there is a path to a responsible, bipartisan budget agreement” is a bad sign for the clean-debt-ceiling-only crowd in his party.
Especially when the White House notes that “neither side will get everything it wants.”
That’s a big, blaring siren for the Democrats, which is why they’re rushing to get a discharge petition to the floor. The problem for Democrats is that they need a majority of House members to sign – meaning they need five Republicans to cross over and vote with them. There are two problems, though.
The first problem is that Republicans are pretty united across both chambers of Congress. It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario where any would cross over to get this discharge petition to the floor.
The second problem is that they may find it hard to get all their members across the finish line here. There have been some reports from behind the scenes that moderate Democrats were working with moderate Republicans to come up with more palatable cuts to the budget, and if that’s the case, do they really want to burn those bipartisan bridges to support an extreme move? Maybe, but you can bet they’re hesitant.
It’s looking more likely than ever that Republicans – and McCarthy in particular – are going to walk away with a victory. There’s still time for the Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but if the White House is close to caving, that would be a tremendously foolish move.
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