What we know about Congress’ unusual solution to the debt ceiling disagreement

The clock has been ticking on the next potential fiscal crisis for the U.S. Government. The nation’s debt ceiling could be reached as soon as next week, and the government might not have the funds to pay its bill. But a breakthrough between Republicans and Democrats Tuesday means they may have found a way out. Judy Woodruff is joined by congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins with more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The clock has been ticking on the next potential fiscal crisis for the U.S. government. The nation's debt ceiling could be reached, and government might not have the funds to pay its bill as soon as next week.

    But, as we reported, today, a breakthrough between Republicans and Democrats means they may have found a way out.

    For more on this. I'm joined by our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    Lisa, here we go again.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Whew.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, for a long time, for the last many months, there was a lot of bitter division over this issue of the debt ceiling.

    What's happened?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This was the problem a lot of us on Capitol Hill were the most worried about.

    I'm going to take you through what's happened today. And I want to start first with the policy. Let me explain. It's an unusual solution that our leaders have come up with today. Here's what they want to do.

    First, they want to craft a bill that would combine a few things. It would include a block on Medicare cuts that would automatically happen without congressional action. And, with that, it would also create almost a new rule allowing for a simple majority in the Senate to pass a debt increase.

    That bill is now in the House. What would happen next is, that path-clearing bill, as I call it, would need to get 60 votes in the Senate. We expect that to happen this week. That would then free up the ability of the Senate to pass a debt increase with a simple majority vote. And it would be a political way of saving face for everyone, especially Senate Minority Leader, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who you remember well said Democrats will have to do this on their own, we will not help them raise the debt ceiling.

    And he did, however, say he wanted them to do this through reconciliation. Democrats say it's a complete reversal on his part. It's at least a five-point turn. But, clearly, the politics were on — in Democrats' side. They stuck it out together on this.

    Chuck Schumer had his first stare-down with Senator McConnell over this, and he pulled out a win.

    Now, I want to also talk a little bit about how this actually came about, because you and I have talked so many nights about all of the gridlock, 50/50 Senate, very difficult to get anything done.

    Simple. Sat down, the sit-down between Senators McConnell and Schumer day after day after day. Didn't leak it. They all — they talked to each other. And I think Senator Schumer sensed that Senator McConnell had kind of boxed himself in.

    Now, Senator McConnell still has a political problem. There are Republicans I talk to who are very unhappy with this. They wanted more of a showdown. They think the debt ceiling was one of their few pieces of leverage that they could have used to maybe have spending caps or make a bigger statement. They think this was a mistake.

    But now Senator McConnell has to get 10 Republicans to vote with him to clear the path for this debt ceiling. We will watch that closely. It feels likely he will get those votes. I expect him to be one of them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very, very interesting, what is taking place. Again, the ice seems to be cracking.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right, for now.

    Our lawmakers are speaking with each other about important things. That is good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you once again.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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