Turns out the Senate can make an exception to the filibuster if it wants to

“Lawmakers voted 50-49 to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion, a figure that’s expected to tide the government over until after the midterm elections next fall. Every one to two years, it’s vital for the US to address the debt ceiling to cover past spending and make sure the government doesn’t default; if it did, it would likely have catastrophic economic consequences globally.

Interestingly, the resolution succeeded because it did not require 60 votes to clear a filibuster in the Senate after lawmakers passed a bill last Thursday granting a one-time exception to the rule.

The deal to suspend the filibuster was bipartisan; leaders of both parties have hesitated to make exceptions to the filibuster, a procedural rule requiring a Senate supermajority to pass legislation, if it gets blocked by the opposition. Senators were willing to make an exception in this case, for two reasons.

One, it enabled Democrats to approve the debt limit resolution on their own, with no Republican support. Republicans wanted to withhold their votes in hopes of weaponizing Democrats’ vote to raise the debt ceiling in future campaigns. Two, the deal allowed a vote to be held quickly, narrowly avoiding the December 15 default deadline calculated by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

This last-minute deal enabled lawmakers to avert a debt default and massive economic crisis while overcoming a partisan impasse on the subject. For some Democrats, too, it revealed that exceptions to the filibuster are possible — and an option lawmakers should consider for other bills.”

“The debt ceiling vote has opened the door to questions of whether Democrats would consider filibuster exceptions for other bills, like voting rights protections. Activists, and some Democratic lawmakers, have called for this in recent months amid failures to advance voting rights protections, police reform, and a $15 minimum wage due to GOP opposition in the Senate. But a filibuster exemption for policy changes is likely to be difficult to secure.

This time around, Democrats were only able to get an exception because it was for something Republicans actually wanted. Though there was enough GOP opposition to raising the debt limit that getting 60 Senate votes was in doubt, Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did not want the US to default. Those leaders made sure the exception passed for the good of the domestic and global economy. Without Republican support, Democrats likely wouldn’t be able to approve another exception in this same way.

That leaves Democrats with another challenging option: banding together for a rules change. Those sorts of modifications can be done by majority vote. But that would require the support of all 50 Democratic caucus members, which party leaders don’t currently have. Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have staunchly opposed such changes thus far.

Still, this development has made it clear lawmakers do have another option to consider for bills that can’t pass via budget reconciliation, and has set a recent precedent for such carveouts. Now that it’s been done once, expect to hear calls to do it again. In fact, this filibuster carveout has sparked new conversation about how else this tactic could be used.”

What Americans Think About The Fight Over The Debt Ceiling

“it’s likely that many Americans don’t understand what the debt ceiling is or what raising it entails. Consider the high share of respondents who said they were unsure in The Economist/YouGov’s survey. Part of what’s tricky here is the debt ceiling refers to debt and financial obligations the U.S. has already accrued — such as interest on the country’s debt or previously authorized spending, like Social Security benefits. That is, the debt limit is not a tool that authorizes new spending, as such expenditures are decided in completely separate legislation, like a bill for the next federal budget.”

“past polls back up the idea that many people don’t grasp what it is or what the risks are if it’s not increased. In a 2013 HuffPost/YouGov poll, for instance, 42 percent of Americans correctly responded that a higher debt ceiling allowed the country to pay interest on its debt and spending that’s already been authorized, but 39 percent mistakenly said that the debt ceiling directly increased government spending and the amount of debt the U.S. holds. This survey also found plenty of uncertainty, as 20 percent said they weren’t sure what raising the debt ceiling meant. A poll by the Washington Post/Pew Research Center from 2011 — when the debt-ceiling debate was particularly fraught — also reflected a misunderstanding of the consequences of raising or not raising the debt limit. In the poll, more Americans were worried about what would happen if the debt ceiling was raised than if it wasn’t: 48 percent were more concerned that raising the debt ceiling would lead to more spending and debt, while 35 percent were more worried that not raising the cap would force a debt default and cause economic harm.”