Mitch McConnell Expected to Propose Short-Term Debt Ceiling Fix to Avoid Looming Crisis

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is floating a plan to agree to temporarily lift the debt ceiling and prevent a potential federal economic crisis, as a crucial deadline looms.

In a statement Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican argued that an extension into December would "protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis."

"Whether through miscalculation or a deliberate effort to bully their own members into wrecking the Senate, top Democrats have risked adding a default crisis to the inflation crisis, border crisis and Afghanistan crisis they have already created," he wrote.

McConnell first floated the idea of a possible compromise during a lunch with GOP senators on Wednesday.

"He's going to outline the proposal that he is prepared to discuss with [Senate Majority] Leader [Senator Chuck] Schumer, and I think that's going to give us a way out of the woods, which is what we want," Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, told reporters.

She declined to provide specific details, and McConnell didn't elaborate in his statement other than the emergency action would be "at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels 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," he wrote.

The Treasury Department has predicted the federal debt limit will expire by October 18.

As McConnell huddled with Republican senators, President Joe Biden was meeting with leaders of major companies to stress the potential financial impact of the government defaulting on its debt for the first time ever.

Schumer, who represents New York as a Democrat, and Biden have repeatedly implored on Republicans to "get out of the way" and allow Democrats to raise the debt limit with their razor-thin majority, rather than needing a bipartisan 60 votes.

The Senate has been set to take up another vote Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats and sought the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2020 election, called the news of McConnell's offer a "step forward."

"I did not believe that they would allow our economy and the world's economy to collapse," he told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Other Democrats were skeptical of the plan and McConnell's tone in announcing it.

"What kind of an offer is that?" Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, told Capitol reporters, calling the proposal "bull****."

Democrats have argued that the debt rose sharply under the Trump administration and GOP-control of the House and Senate, but Republicans are trying to pin the issue on Democrats now.

"Republican obstruction on the debt ceiling over the last few weeks has been reckless," Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "It's been irresponsible."

Updated 3:24 PM ET, with additional information.

Congress debates debt ceiling
Congress has until October 18 to raise the debt ceiling or risk default that would have widespread economic consequences. Above, a view of the U.S. Capitol during morning rush hour on October 6 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images