Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday appeared to further narrow Democrats' options when he dismissed the idea of partially nuking the filibuster for debt ceiling legislation, as a debt crisis inches later this month nears.
"I've been very, very clear where I stand, where I stand on the filibuster," Manchin, D-W.Va., said. "Nothing's changing."
And with that, Democrats officially lacked the votes to raise the debt ceiling with the nuclear option – using 50 votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker to set a new precedent that debt ceiling legislation can pass by a simple majority.
But as that door appeared to close, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled that he would prop another one open for Democrats if they are willing to walk through it.
He said the GOP would be willing to make the budget reconciliation process easier for Democrats if they cave to GOP demands that they use it to raise the debt ceiling.
Republicans have been saying since July that they won't vote to increase the debt ceiling and are demanding Democrats use the reconciliation process to raise it. They see it as a sort of protest against the fact Democrats are using that process to pass trillions in spending along party lines.
"This year, Democrats requested and won new powers to repeatedly reuse the reconciliation process. In the last few days, Democrats in both the House and Senate have publicly admitted their party could handle the debt limit that way," McConnell said.
"Our colleagues have plenty of time to get it done before the earliest projected deadline," he added. "There would be potential for time agreements to wrap it up well before any danger."
This would mean, perhaps, that Republicans would not force all-night vote-a-ramas and that they could help speed things along procedurally, even if they do not take any votes in favor of raising the debt limit.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also appeared to be open to that possibility in separate comments Wednesday.
"The point is that we're not trying, or at least I'm not trying to burn the place down," Graham said. Instead, he said, the GOP wants to make a point about allegedly out-of-control spending by Democrats.
"If you want to spend this much money, which is an historic amount of money, not just on roads and bridges and ports, then you're not going to get any help from me to raise the deficit," he said.
The rub, however, is that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said repeatedly he is not considering increasing the debt ceiling via reconciliation.
"Reconciliation is a drawn-out, convoluted and risky process with default and downgrade hovering over us," Schumer said Wednesday as he explained why he is against it.
But there are 12 days remaining until the U.S. defaults on its debts. And either Republicans or Democrats will have to cave soon enough or Congress may run out of options for how to avoid an economic catastrophe.
FOX Business' Jason Donner contributed to this report.