GOP disappointment with McConnell deal could delay vote

Senate Republicans are taking a close look at the debt limit deal announced Thursday morning between Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and a group of conservatives are complaining to their colleagues that the GOP leader gave Democrats an easy way out.

Several Senate Republican sources said members of their caucus were “surprised and disappointed” when McConnell unveiled the parameters of the deal with Schumer on Wednesday.

One GOP senator said “you could hear a pin drop” when McConnell shared the details of his plan to allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling to “a fixed number” without having to undergo the arduous process of amending the 2022 budget resolution and holding multiple time-consuming vote-a-ramas on the Senate floor.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said some of his GOP colleagues were thrown for a loop because 46 Senate Republicans signed a letter in August warning Schumer they “will not vote to increase the debt ceiling, whether that increase comes through a stand-alone bill, a continuing resolution, or any other vehicle.”

“I’m not surprised that they are a little surprised and disappointed, because of course 46 Republicans signed a letter saying they wouldn’t vote for an increase,” he said. “I think they feel like maybe we could have pushed it a little longer.”

“The problem is the Republican members feel like we’re blinking and blinking a little earlier than might be necessary,” he added.

He said the upcoming weeklong Columbus Day recess, which is scheduled to begin this weekend, “probably entered into the calculation” to strike a deal.

“It’s not insignificant because people have plans and all that but plans aside, your plans to go on a CODEL [congressional delegation trip] are not the highest priority, the government is,” Cramer noted. “I think some people wanted to go closer [to the deadline] and feel like we blinked too soon.”

But Cramer also defended McConnell’s deal as an “elegant” solution to get out of a tough situation with the debt limit deadline looming.

McConnell scored a significant political victory by forcing Democrats to vote on raising the debt limit to a higher number instead of merely voting to suspend it until a later date.

Schumer wanted to suspend the debt ceiling until December of 2022, and now vulnerable members of his caucus will have to vote on it again in December.

But former President Trump, whom many Senate Republicans say still wields huge influence in the party, immediately bashed the deal.

Internal Republican grumbling is expected to delay a vote on the deal at least for a few hours or until Friday or Saturday.

“There are some raw feelings, so it’s possible it could be late,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who said he’s feeling complaints from “the Republican side.”

One Republican senator described Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as “apoplectic.”

Graham, a close Trump ally, warned against GOP “capitulation” in a tweet Thursday morning.

“If Democrats want an expedited process to use reconciliation to raise the debt limit they can have it,” Graham said on Twitter. “However, if Republicans intend to give Democrats a pass on using reconciliation to raise the debt limit – now or in the future – that would be capitulation.”

Schumer filed a motion on Thursday to end debate on the debt limit deal, which means that conservative critics could drag the process out until Saturday if they refuse to yield back time.

Schumer later called senators to the floor to vote on a motion to discharge a nominee from committee, giving McConnell an opportunity to persuade his GOP colleagues to agree to let the debt deal pass before Friday.

“We’re whipping for a [unanimous consent agreement], otherwise we’re screwed and could be here until Saturday,” said another GOP senator who requested anonymity to describe internal discussions.

The biggest downside of the deal, in the view of disappointed Republicans, is that their conference will divide over a procedural vote on bringing a two-month extension of the debt limit to the floor for an up-or-down vote.

Republicans have said for months that they would not provide any assistance to Democrats in raising the debt limit, especially since Democrats are working on a $3.5 trillion human infrastructure package that would raise taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars.

But now they face the prospect of having to vote on a cloture motion to bypass a filibuster so that Democrats can pass the short-term debt limit increase with a simple-majority vote.

At least 10 Republicans need to vote for the procedural motion to pave the way for legislation that would raise the debt limit by $480 billion, which is enough to cover the U.S. government’s financial obligations until Jan. 3.

As of lunchtime Thursday, it looked like McConnell might have a tough time rounding up enough Republican votes to bypass a filibuster and let the two-month debt limit increase come to the floor, which Democrats would then pass on their own.

Members of the Senate GOP leadership team, including Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), said they hadn’t yet decided how to vote and wanted to take a closer look at the deal.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, said that Senate Republicans would try to work out an agreement within their conference to skip the cloture vote altogether, so that no Republican votes would be cast to help Democrats.

“Is anybody excited about this deal? Sometimes you have to do things that you’re not excited about to prevent something even worse,” he said, referring to the possibility of a national default.

“I’m hoping that we can avoid the cloture vote and so that’s a conversation we can have at lunch because I don’t see the point in doing that other than delaying the inevitable,” he said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who has been outspoken in raising concerns about the mounting federal deficit, however, said he expects there will be a 60-vote threshold for advancing the debt deal.

“There’s going to be a cloture vote,” he said.

Updated at 5:26 p.m.

Tags Ben Cardin Chuck Schumer debt ceiling Donald Trump John Cornyn John Thune Kevin Cramer Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Roy Blunt

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