Republicans' hope for debt ceiling goes through Manchin and Sinema

Going against the grain of their colleagues in the Democratic caucus, the senators are pushing Joe Biden to negotiate with Kevin McCarthy and are emerging as key players in the Senate.

The hourglass is still ticking for the Biden Administration on the debt ceiling. The June 1 deadline contrasts with the back-and-forth between the White House and Congress. House Republicans have already passed their bill, and it looks like they will have at least two allies in the Senate: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Both senators are more interested in a bipartisan agreement than further tightening the noose.

The Limit, Save and Grow Act of 2023 was passed in mid-April by 217 Republicans in the lower House, with no Democrats joining the bill. This contemplates an increase in the ceiling for one year and then a reduction in public spending. President Biden's position is clear: clean raise or nothing, delaying the matter.

In this context, Manchin and Sinema are trying to call for bipartisanship in the Senate and prevent the country from going into financial default. In other words, the debtor (United States) may not be able to comply with the legal obligation to pay the debts incurred. The West Virginia senator has already encouraged the president to meet with Kevin McCarthy to find common ground, what James Baker III would define as an imperfect bill, but "one that everyone can live with."

For her part, the Arizona independent had dinner with the speaker to discuss scenarios that could be raised in the Senate. "She's trying to play a constructive role and try to get people to the table and understand that we can't go over the brink on this," said John Thune (R-SD), who confessed to having discussed the issue with his two colleagues.

"Manchin saying things like that is constructive and helpful. Hopefully helps his leadership realize ... a straight debt increase just is a nonstarter," the senator added. Republican hopes with the West Virginia moderate rose in response to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY-D), who claimed the GOP bill was "dead on arrival."

"To say something's dead on arrival before we really had a chance to look at it — I think there's a better way to approach it," countered Manchin, who also disclosed conversations with McCarthy. Specifically, he touted the idea of passing a bipartisan, bicameral fiscal commission necessary to bring deficit reduction legislation to the full Senate.

Recently, Sinema accused the leadership of being "irresponsible" for "playing chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States." Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) revealed in conversations with POLITICO that other Democratic colleagues agree with this stance but do not publicly acknowledge it. "Many others agree with them among my Democratic friends, but they're just not saying it. They've got to stick with Sen. Schumer's party line," the Republican said while praising Sinema and Manchin's stance on the debt ceiling as "very helpful."

In the meantime, President Biden called the four congressional leaders to a meeting on May 9, where they will discuss what to do before June 1. The invitation was sent to Kevin McCarthy, Hakeem Jeffries, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer.