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October 14, 2013

Hey, Guys, We're Going To Collide With The Debt Ceiling

Alternate Headline: "Your Move, Mr. Cruz."

There is talk of a deal being worked out this afternoon, but I thought I might mention that even if a deal is worked out today or tomorrow, we are almost certainly going to find out what happens when the debt ceiling isn't raised by Thursday.

Quite simply, there isn't enough time for the Senate to consider a bill before the Thursday deadline . . . unless there's unanimous consent to waive the Senate rules. Here's what has to happen before the Senate can pass a bill raising the debt ceiling.

(1) The bill has to be drafted. Figure this takes a day.
(2) The bill has to be moved to the floor. This takes 3 days if it's a new bill that has to be calendared. It's faster if Sen. Reid amends a bill that's already on the calendar. It's also faster if the Senate takes up a bill from the House.
(3) Without unanimous consent, they'd need to file for cloture on the motion to proceed. Add a day, since a cloture vote has to be filed a day in advance of the vote.
(4) Without unanimous consent, they'd then have 30 hours of post-cloture debate.
(5) Without unanimous consent, they'd need to file cloture on the bill itself.
(6) Without unanimous consent, they'd then have 30 more hours of post-cloture debate.
(7) And then the Senate would get to vote on final passage of the bill.

There just isn't that much time between now and the deadline. This means that if any Senators object to waiving the rules, we're going to run headfirst into the debt ceiling even if Sens. Reid and McConnell came out with a deal this very second.

I checked with a pal who works on the Senate side. Though he cautions that there are a lot of ifs involved, he confirmed my understanding of the rules. He suggested that if there's unanimous consent, the Senate could pass something in a couple days. Without unanimous consent, the Senate's not going to be passing a bill until next week.

Does anyone here believe that a deal struck between Reid and McConnell is going to get unanimous consent from Senate Republicans? I sure don't. And don't forget, even if a deal makes it through the Senate, it then has to make it through the House.

The bottom line: we're about to find out what actually happens when the United States government runs up against the debt ceiling.

Updated [4:35]: Wait, wait, wait. I'm confused about the objection to the alternate headline, which I thought was amusing. Do you think that Sen. Cruz would agree to waive the rules to allow quick passage of the deal we're hearing rumors about? It'd sure surprise me.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:51 PM

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