McConnell requested a vote Thursday morning on an administration proposal that included an offer on resolving the so-called fiscal cliff. The White House proposal suggested giving the president the authority to raise the federal debt limit, while providing Congress could disapprove any such increase, Politico reported.
The U.S. government has $16.3 trillion in debt, putting it just below the $16.4 trillion limit set by Congress following contentious debate that at one point led to a lowering of the U.S. credit rating.
After initially objecting to McConnell's proposal Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he wanted a Thursday afternoon vote, having secured the 51 votes to pass the proposal on a straight, up-or-down vote.
"Senator McConnell made a serious offer dealing with the debt ceiling of this country, one of the most important issues facing the country," Reid said. "It's a serious offer. I personally haven't read it. My staff has looked at it. It's important enough that I would like to have a vote on it this afternoon."
McConnell objected, requesting the vote clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
"What we're talking about here is a perpetual debt ceiling grant in effect to the president. Matters of this level of controversy always require 60 votes," McConnell said. "So I would ask my friend, the majority leader, if he would modify his consent agreement."
Reid characterized the Kentucky Republican's objection as a "case of Republicans refusing to take 'yes' for an answer."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Senate Democrats had at least 51 votes, commenting that McConnell's "usually very astute political radar is off today."