U.S. House passes bill to suspend debt ceiling, but Republicans vow to block it in Senate
Republicans will not help Democrats raise the debt ceiling ‘as long as this majority insists on spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave’
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The House passed stand-alone legislation to suspend the federal debt limit through December 2022, but the bill is expected to go nowhere in the Senate in the face of solid Republican opposition.
The measure passed on a mostly party-line vote of 219-212.
Senate Republicans have twice blocked debt ceiling measures from advancing in the 50-50 chamber, where 60 votes are needed to proceed on most legislation.
The debt ceiling was suspended for two years under the Trump administration and snapped back into place in August. Although much of the recent increase in federal debt occurred when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, the GOP is tying the debt limit increase to Democratic efforts to pass a tax and spending package of as much as US$3.5 trillion.
Republicans will not help Democrats raise the debt ceiling “as long as this majority insists on spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave,” Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma said before the vote.
“They and they alone must act,” Cole said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats were willing to do that. But Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell blocked a bid by Schumer on Tuesday to gain Republican consent for a simple majority vote on the debt ceiling.
“We’re just asking Republicans to get out of the way,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that a default looms on Oct. 18 without congressional action.
President Joe Biden’s agenda is at risk of being derailed not just by Republicans, but by divisions among his own Democrats, as moderates voiced anger on Wednesday at the idea of delaying a US$1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Several senior Democrats have said that the “reconciliation” bill — so called because it is being drawn up under a budgetary procedure to avoid Senate rules requiring 60 votes out of 100 members for passage — will need to be scaled back to pass.
Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he believed it would take weeks to reach agreement.
The “reconciliation (bill) is going to take a while; it’s not going to be a week or two or three weeks. There’s a lot,” Manchin said.
A White House staffer met at the Capitol with another moderate Democratic Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, who has expressed deep concern over the size of Biden’s plans and has the power to block them due to the Democrats’ narrow control of the Senate.
Other Senate Democrats have avoided criticizing Manchin and Sinema but showed no sign of relenting on their own demands.
House Democrats urged the two to say publicly what they want.