The Senate is preparing to move ahead this week on legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, Senate aides told ABC News, with Majority Leader Harry Reid expected to file a bill later today or Tuesday on a "clean" debt-limit increase, without any restrictions.
"We've got to get the wheels turning," a top Senate leadership aide told ABC News today.
The Senate will begin debate later this week on an extension of the debt ceiling, most likely for one year, aides said. The first test votes could come as early as Friday.
With only 10 days until the debt-ceiling deadline Oct. 17, Senate Democrats are attempting to jump-start a debate on increasing the nation's borrowing power of $16.7 trillion. Strong resistance is expected from some Republicans, aides say, so Reid wants to give the Senate enough time to overcome the threat of a filibuster.
If Republicans exhaust all procedural options, the earliest the Senate could approve the bill is Oct. 15.
It's an open question on how challenging it will be to pass the debt-ceiling increase. Democrats will not only need to hold all of their own, including the senators facing tough re-election fights next year, but also attract a half-dozen Republicans. Most Republicans argue that any increase in the debt ceiling must come with spending cuts and other policy changes.
Democrats say they are moving forward with a "clean" bill, hoping to avoid a reprise of the 2011 fight over lifting the debt ceiling, which ultimately contributed to the first downgrading of the nation's credit rating.
The fight in the House is shaping up to be even more contentious, with Speaker John Boehner telling George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" that Republicans would not support lifting the nation's debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to negotiate. The White House and Democrats insist that raising the debt ceiling is not negotiable.
"The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit," Boehner said. "And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us."