WASHINGTON – The House gave final approval on Tuesday to legislation that would raise the debt ceiling until early December, postponing the threat of a first-ever federal default even as Republicans pledge to reimpose their blockade on a longer term solution.
The vote was 219-206 to pass the bill, allowing it to President Biden, who was to quickly sign it just days before the Oct. 18 date when the government is supposed to exceed the statutory borrowing limit and be unable to meet its obligations. The legislation lifts the debt ceiling by $ 480 billion, which the Treasury Department says is enough to last until at least December 3, setting a new deadline for Congress to break its deadlock on the issue .
The temporary extension was necessary because Republicans had blocked Democrats’ legislation to provide a longer-term raise, demanding that they do so through a complex and time-consuming budget maneuver rather than through normal channels.
Last week, a handful of Senate Republicans temporarily dropped their party’s obstruction for months to a debt-limiting measure and voted to break a short-term obstruction of the bill, allowing it to vote in this room. But Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, has since warned President Biden that his party will no longer break ranks.
On Tuesday, all Republicans in the House voted against raising the debt ceiling, even for a few weeks, as Democrats pleaded for bipartisan support.
“What do you have against our own economy, where this catastrophe of unbelievable proportions could impact for more than 100 years? President Nancy Pelosi of California said, addressing Republicans ahead of the vote. “You don’t care about that?”
It’s not uncommon for out-of-power party members to oppose raising the debt ceiling, a vote that can expose lawmakers to accusations of allowing excessive federal spending. But this year, Republicans have taken the obstruction to new heights, actively preventing Democrats from even putting such legislation to a vote through normal procedures.
Democrats passed the increase on Tuesday as part of a procedural move to put in place future votes on three other pieces of legislation, including one to expand breastfeeding accommodations at work, a bill to ensure that older Americans are not excluded from the workplace, and another to strengthen protections and services for survivors of domestic and family violence. The move saved Democrats from voting separately to raise the debt ceiling, which Republicans again criticized in the House.
By passing the temporary increase, Democrats were leading the way to refocus on promoting Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda in Congress. They hoped to use the coming weeks to resolve divisions within parties over a sprawling domestic policy bill that aims to tackle climate change, boost public education and health care delivery, and provide for paid holidays and home care and to raise taxes for businesses and the wealthy. .
The party is fighting to reduce the original $ 3.5 trillion price of the package to around $ 2 trillion. Ms Pelosi warned Democrats on Monday that “tough decisions need to be made very soon” on how to do it.
Democrats are using a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation, which protects legislation from filibuster, to get this bill through Congress in the face of unanimous Republican opposition.
In retaliation for the move, which was also used to unilaterally adopt the $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief package this spring, Republican leaders demanded Democrats also use reconciliation to raise the ceiling on the debt.
“I will not participate in any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement,” McConnell wrote in a scathing letter to Mr. Biden on Friday, a day after joining 10 other Republicans in authorizing the short increase. term to Advance. “Your lieutenants on Capitol Hill now have the time they claimed lacked to settle the debt ceiling.”
The current debt limit was set at $ 28.4 trillion on August 1, and the Treasury Department has since relied on so-called extraordinary measures to delay exceeding the borrowing limit.
Understanding the US debt ceiling
What is the debt ceiling? The debt ceiling, also known as the debt ceiling, is a ceiling on the total amount of money the federal government is allowed to borrow through US Treasury bills and savings bonds to meet its financial obligations. Because the United States has budget deficits, it has to borrow huge sums of money to pay its bills.
“Democrats now control the House, Senate and White House – they can pass an extension of the debt limit using their majority,” said Rep. Michelle Fischbach, Republican from Minnesota. She criticized the temporary increase – a proposal first raised by Mr McConnell, who rejected any longer-term increase – as legislation that “does nothing more than kick something that should be dealt with now “.
Billions of dollars in debt have accumulated under policies approved by both parties, and Democrats have pointed out that some members of their party joined with Republicans in raising the debt ceiling when the GOP controlled the White House , including under former President Donald J. Trump.
They have so far rejected Mr McConnell’s request to use the reconciliation process to settle the debt ceiling, which would most likely take many hours in the Senate and require dozens of votes.
Ms Pelosi on Tuesday launched the prospect of breaking enduring partisan deadlocks on the debt limit by shifting responsibility for raising the borrowing limit to the Treasury Department and simply giving Congress the ability to block a proposed increase.
“It seems to have some appeal on both sides of the aisle because of the consequences for people not to lift it,” Ms. Pelosi said, adding “I think it has merit”.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, did not rule out such a solution once Congress finds a way out of the current crisis.
“There is a lot of time after that to have a discussion of what it looks like going forward,” Ms Psaki said Tuesday in her daily briefing. “There is no doubt that we do not want this to be political football in the future.”
For now, Congress has created another deadline to avoid a tax calamity. The December 3 estimate for when the new debt limit will be reached is the first Friday of this month, the same day the government will shut down if Congress fails to come to an agreement and pass the dozen. annual spending bills.