Mr. McConnell’s offer was designed to rob Democrats of the argument that they do not have time to capitulate to his demand. The reconciliation process must start in the House with a budget resolution instructing committees to draft legislation to lift the debt ceiling, and the House is not even in session this week. With at least some Republicans promising more dilatory tactics, the process could take awhile, but not until December.
Mr. McConnell may be showing concern about the other two alternatives. Carving out an exception to the filibuster rules, which effectively require 60 votes to move forward with most legislation, has been done before — for judicial and executive branch nominees. But doing so unilaterally to raise the debt ceiling would be a lurch toward ending the filibuster for all policy matters and instituting straight majority rule.
The move has long been resisted by institutionalists and centrists in both parties, including two current Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, although some leading Democrats argue this debt ceiling drama could change minds.
“Nothing changed,” Mr. Manchin told reporters on Wednesday.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 4 Republican, warned that if Democrats change the filibuster rule, “they’ll permanently change the Senate, permanently change the relationships that still matter in the Senate, and institute the idea that 50 of you plus a vice president of your party can always do whatever you want to do.
“I don’t think that’s healthy for the country,” Mr. Blunt said. “It certainly wouldn’t be healthy for the Senate.”
Praying for Republicans to fold after two failed efforts to break their filibuster is an even riskier play for Democrats, given the stakes. If, for the first time, the U.S. government could not meet its obligations to international lenders, the world economy’s safe-harbor investment would be called into question. Interest rates would probably rise sharply, and global financial institutions would begin searching for new vehicles to store money, where it would not be subject to the whims of partisan politics.
“We’re not asking them to blink; we’re asking them to be the slightest bit reasonable,” Senator Angus King, a centrist independent from Maine, said of Republican leaders. “The political gain of this strikes me as low. The loss to the country strikes me as extraordinarily high.”