Default Seemingly Averted as Mitch McConnell Blinks on Debt Ceiling, Offers Deal to Dems

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered a deal to Democrats to try to avert a potentially catastrophic debt crisis, ahead of a looming deadline this month.

The details remain unclear.

"We haven't seen anything in writing," Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday.

But it appears Democrats are willing to cut an agreement with Republicans that would extend the debt limit into December.

"This will moot Democrats' excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation," McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement on his offer.

The debt ceiling fight comes as Democrats have tried to forge a path forward on two key Biden agenda items: a $1 trillion infrastructure package and as much as $3.5 trillion to massively expand the social safety net. Both have been temporarily pushed back to handle the more urgent debt ceiling issue.

Debt ceiling vote again
Mitch McConnell has offered a deal to Democrats to avoid a potential debt crisis. The above photo shows the U.S. Capitol Building on May 14, 2021, in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

"Our Republican friends need to stop playing Russian roulette with the U.S. economy," President Joe Biden said at the start of a roundtable discussion with business leaders at the White House on Wednesday. "It has nothing to do with new spending. It has nothing to do with my plans."

"It's about paying what we owe," he added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters after a Democratic caucus meeting to discuss the potential agreement that the meeting was "good" but offered no additional details.

Republicans repeatedly blocked Democrats' attempts to raise the debt ceiling—initially as part of a broader stopgap federal funding measure to prevent a government shutdown and then again in an attempt that would have allowed Democrats to pass without Republican support.

Just hours before the Senate was set to vote again on the proposal, McConnell brokered the plan to give more time and avert a government default—first unveiling his new proposal during a lunch meeting of GOP senators.

Earlier in the day, he again chided the Democrat majority from the Senate floor, arguing they had been warned that Republicans wouldn't join them in the debt ceiling vote.

"They are frantically asking our side for shortcuts," he said, warning that the latest vote also would fail and was a waste of time and partisan display.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, hinted at the potential deal after the GOP lunch.

"I think that's going to give us a way out of the woods, which is what we want," she told reporters.