Mitch McConnell Confident He Can Get 10 Republicans to Back Him, Others Aren't So Sure

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) believes he has the Republican support he needs to bring forward an unusual procedure that will raise the federal debt ceiling and avoid a potential U.S. default.

McConnell reached an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to let Democrats raise the debt limit with Republican votes through a one-time process.

That plan was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday but it will now head to the Senate, where 10 GOP votes are required to pass it. If the one-time process is approved, Senate Democrats will then be able to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes.

While a number of Republicans expressed opposition to the new process on Monday, McConnell appeared confident that he had the votes on Tuesday.

"There are always differences of opinion among Republicans about how to handle a delicate issue like the debt ceiling," McConnell told journalists.

"I'm confident that this particular procedure coupled with the avoidance of Medicare cuts will receive enough Republican support to clear the 60-vote threshold," he said.

The debt limit process has been included in a bill to delay cuts to Medicare, which may make it easier to pass. However, some Republicans remained skeptical about McConnell's plan.

"I don't think there will be 10 Republican votes to allow the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Tuesday.

Graham also said he didn't like the plan of folding the debt ceiling measure into the Medicare bill.

"I don't like this idea of tying it to Medicare. I don't like that much at all," the senator said.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) strongly criticized the plan, and said Democrats should act without Republican votes.

"They've cooked up this new gimmick to try to force it through, but at the end of the day Democrats have the legal authority to raise the debt limit using reconciliation," Cruz told CNN.

Cruz said Democrats could raise the debt ceiling on their own, referring to the budget reconciliation process, but that they were continuing to "try to engage in political games to try to maneuver Republicans into voting for the debt they've been racking up."

Graham also favors Democrats raising the debt ceiling using reconciliation.

Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) seemed skeptical of the proposal, saying Democrats controlled the agenda in the Senate.

"There's no reason for us to try and facilitate anything for them again," Rounds said. "I can be pretty pragmatic. But this one?"

Nonetheless, some key Republicans indicate support for the plan, including Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) and Senators Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

"We'll see what the members say, I would expect they would be for it," Blunt said.

Several Republicans had expressed opposition to potentially including a debt ceiling process in the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That will not now take place and could ease the passage of the debt measure through the Senate.

Mitch McConnell Attends a News Conference
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens during a news conference following a weekly Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on October 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. McConnell has made a deal with Democrats to allow them to raise the debt ceiling. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images