Capitol Correspondence - 05.09.23

Congress Deadlocked Over Debt Ceiling: Negotiations Stalled as Deadline Approaches

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As the deadline for raising the U.S. debt ceiling looms closer, Congress remains locked in a political stalemate over the issue. Last week, the House of Representatives passed its version of the debt ceiling bill, the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which includes provisions requiring Medicaid recipients to work 80 hours a month unless they are granted an exemption, including for disability. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made it clear that the bill is unlikely to pass in its current form. Nevertheless, Senate hearings on the legislation are set to begin this week.

President Biden has responded to the political impasse by announcing that he will meet with Congressional leadership on May 9 to further negotiations over the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the U.S. could default by June 1 if a resolution is not reached soon.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are considering a discharge petition to break the deadlock, but they will need to win the support of enough GOP colleagues to achieve a simple majority of 218 members.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has dismissed the chamber’s ability to resolve the issue stating “There is no solution in the Senate” to resolve the debt limit standoff. Despite this, Senate Democrats are reportedly considering a clean increase following the upcoming meeting between Biden and the leaders of both parties in each chamber.

In a move that could further complicate raising the US debt limit, a group of 43 Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his entire leadership team, have pledged not to vote for cloture on any clean debt-limit hike “without substantive spending and budget reforms.”

The announcement, which came over the weekend, effectively blocks any chance of passing a clean debt-limit bill, which has been advocated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden. The group’s opposition is enough to filibuster any clean debt-limit bill, leaving no clear path forward in the Senate.

The announcement spawned from a letter, initiated by Senator Mike Lee of Utah, called for significant spending cuts and budgetary changes before any increase in the debt limit could be considered.