Senate could vote this week to raise the debt ceiling

Chris Moody
Yahoo News

Senate Democrats are considering holding a vote on a bill to increase the federal debt limit as early as this week, senior Senate Democratic leadership aides told Yahoo News.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan, as first reported by Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, would give Senate lawmakers an opportunity to vote on a “clean” increase of the debt limit — one with no extra amendments attached.

President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders have called for a “clean” debt ceiling increase, but congressional Republicans say they will insist upon broad budget reforms as part of an agreement to raise the limit.

The Treasury Department estimates that the federal government will run out of money by Oct. 17, barring congressional action to increase the nation’s borrowing limit. Not doing so could cause the government to default on the interest of its $16.7 trillion debt, which economists predict would be disastrous for the economy.

Senate Democratic leaders are confident they have the votes to pass a debt limit increase, so long as Republicans allow it to pass by a majority vote. Senate Republicans could filibuster, which would require a 60-vote threshold to overcome. An aide to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the top Democratic vote counter in the Senate, told Yahoo News that a clean bill would receive support from all 54 Senate Democrats, meaning six Republicans would need to join them to overcome a GOP filibuster.

Because of the dire economic consequences of not raising the debt limit, holding a vote now could put Republicans in a tough position and give Democrats fodder to blame the GOP if there is a default.

Even if it passes the Senate, the debt limit bill could result in the same kind of standoff between the Democrat-controlled upper chamber and the Republican-majority House currently happening over funding the government. In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said there aren’t enough votes in the House to approve a clean bill.

The debate over the debt limit comes while tensions are already high in the nation's capital one week into a federal government shutdown that has left more than 800,000 federal workers furloughed and many government services out of commission.