Can John Yarmuth Save the Biden Agenda?

“I think what is more likely to happen is a bunch of his members come to him and say, ‘This is too much heat, Mitch. We’re gonna vote together, we’re gonna vote for the bill, we’re gonna vote to raise the debt ceiling,’” he said. “So he may not back down, but I think some of his members will.” (This guess may be overly optimistic, given that 10 Republicans would be needed and 46 GOP senators recently signed a letter saying that they would not support raising the debt limit.)

Republicans have pointed to a quote from Yarmuth that Democrats could raise the debt limit through reconciliation as proof that Democrats should just go it alone. Yarmuth said on MSNBC on Sunday that “we can do it through reconciliation,” but that Democratic leadership wanted to avoid that option because “we have to actually specify a number,” unlike suspending the debt limit to a certain date. But he told me on Wednesday that he believed it was “highly unlikely that we will do it through reconciliation.”

“I think leadership is pretty dug in on that,” he said, floating other options that the administration can pursue, such as minting a coin to cover the debt or looking into whether the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.

Yarmuth said later on Wednesday that there was insufficient time to address the debt ceiling through reconciliation, citing “parliamentary obstacles,” and adding that “the ball is now in Senator McConnell’s court.” It would certainly be inconvenient and time-consuming to use reconciliation as the vehicle to raise the limit, and Republicans could do plenty to gum up the works, but it’s theoretically not impossible. The X Date—that nifty nickname we have for when the country defaults on its debts and the global economy is plunged into chaos—is currently estimated to be in mid- to late October, which means there is some time to act.

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