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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Sen. Joe Manchin

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Senate will be voting Wednesday to resolve the debt ceiling crisis. Except they won't actually be voting on the debt ceiling. They'll be voting on whether Republicans will allow a floor vote on suspending the debt limit; as of now, it takes 60 votes to pay the nation's bills. Republicans don't want to do so, even though the bills now come due were incurred by their guy, the former squatter in the Oval Office.

That "moderate, bipartisan" Republican, Susan Collins, proved that yet again this week, suggesting a totally unacceptable trade for her vote: If the Democrats would just totally abandon President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, the cornerstone of his first term in office, some Republicans might consider not jeopardizing the global economy.

How very Susan Collins of her. No, it's not a serious suggestion, but it is illustrative of the broken Senate, and the destructive power Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (Manchema) are wielding right now to keep it broken.

In particular, Manchin has signed on with Mitch McConnell's strategy on the debt ceiling. McConnell has been trying to force Democrats to "go it alone" on the debt ceiling vote and use budget reconciliation, the procedural move that can pass with a simple majority. McConnell is doing that because he thinks he can make political hay against the Democrats running for reelection in 2022 by saying they're tax-and-spend liberals. For that questionable political gain, McConnell is playing this potentially catastrophic game with the economy. Manchin is helping him.

"We just can't let the debt ceiling lapse. We just can't," Manchin said. "We can prevent default. We really can prevent it. And there's a way to do that, and there's a couple other tools we have that we can use. Takes a little bit of time, a little bit of—it's gonna be a little bit of pain, long vote-a-ramas, this and that—do what you have to do. But we cannot—and I want people to know—we will not let this country default." Being the true team player—for the Republicans in this case—Manchin suggested that his colleagues shouldn't be worried about taking the kind of politically sensitive votes McConnell is planning for that vote-a-rama. His current term ends in 2025.

Manchin is in direct opposition to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who reiterated Tuesday that using reconciliation—with its vote-a-rama—isn't an option, that it's too risky to do without a united Senate.

That's some brinksmanship on Schumer's part, too. But he's right not to cave to McConnell and Manchin's demands. He needs to be prepared—and needs to have his conference prepared—to pull the plug on the filibuster. Republicans aren't budging; they won't allow a majority floor vote under regular order. Manchin, and presumably Sinema (she's doing her usual clamming up about anything that matters), are wholly responsible for allowing them to do so.

Now might just be the time for Schumer, and Biden, to force Manchema to declare their loyalties. Will they choose protecting the filibuster and abetting Republicans and let the nation default, or stick with the voters who put them in office? Democrats are talking about it, anyway. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, told The New York Times that changing the filibuster rules to allow for a simple majority to increase the debt limit, now and forever, is definitely an option.

Independent Vermont Sen. Angus King agreed. "I have been very reluctant for nine years about modifying the filibuster rule, especially when it comes to policy, but this has nothing to do with policy," he said. "This is about keeping the United States and world out of what could be a severe recession."

Senators, there's no time like the present.

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