The filibuster really might be in trouble this time

How the debt ceiling standoff could finally lead to majority rule

President Biden and Mitch McConnell.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock, Library of Congress)

Later this month, likely sometime on October 18th, the United States will hit its statutory "debt ceiling" and default on its obligations. While this might seem as harmless as maxing out a credit card, it would be the economic equivalent of letting every nuclear reactor on Earth melt down at the same time, with devastating consequences. And because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is intent on using the filibuster to block legislation raising the debt ceiling, the Senate's ridiculous 60-vote threshold might finally be in real danger.

The U.S. actually hit the debt ceiling on August 1st, and the Treasury Department has been using smoke and mirrors to continue financing debt and spending obligations. Those measures will soon cease to be a viable workaround, and then we would be in uncharted territory. Economists differ about how catastrophic a default would be in the short term, but if the situation is allowed to fester, there is no doubt that the damage would be unimaginable. The U.S. would have to cut current spending by 40 percent, there could be a run on money markets, the stock market would almost certainly implode, credit would dry up and the global economy could be plunged into another recession.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
David Faris

David Faris is an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University and the author of It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. He is a frequent contributor to Informed Comment, and his work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Indy Week.