Senate Blocks Bill to Fund Government, Raise Debt Ceiling

On Monday, the Senate met to vote on a continuing resolution advanced by House Democrats to fund the government through December and provide emergency aid for areas affected by Hurricane Ida and Afghan refugees. In a roughly party-line vote, the upper chamber failed to meet the 60-vote threshold to begin debate on the resolution, a move which denied the bill from advancing to a vote.

The 49–50 vote came after a tense political situation in Washington for over a month.

In early August, a group of 46 Republicans led by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) prepared a new strategy that would force congressional Democrats to take the brunt of the blame for increasing the limit. Almost every Republican senator in the body signed a petition created by Johnson vowing to not vote for a debt ceiling increase.

“We, the undersigned Republican Senators, are letting Senate Democrats and the American public know that we will not vote to increase the debt ceiling, whether that increase comes through a stand-alone bill, a continuing resolution, or any other vehicle,” the letter read.

Republicans Demand Democrats Go It Alone On Debt Ceiling Increase

Johnson and other Republicans have since emphasized that Democrats should not let the nation default under any circumstance, but have insisted that Democrats with their majority in both chambers had the power to raise the limit on their own through the reconciliation process. The process, which allows legislation to avoid a death by filibuster in the Senate, is at the core of Democrats’ plans to pass their expansive $3.5 trillion budget resolution without Republican support.

In the petition, Johnson argued that Democrats “have the power to … unilaterally raise the debt ceiling [through reconciliation], and they should not be allowed to pretend otherwise.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made the same point Monday on the Senate floor, noting that Democrats “have all the tools they need” to raise the debt ceiling to fund their bill.

Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks with an aide as he returns to his office after speaking on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 27, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Still, this is a route that the Democratic leadership has been loathe to take. Some polls have shown that raising the debt ceiling is unpopular with the American people (pdf).

Earlier in the month, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) explicitly rejected including the debt ceiling in the reconciliation bill.

Instead, Democrats insisted that not raising the debt ceiling would be irresponsible on the part of Republicans. Several, including Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), often referenced warnings from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who predicted that the results of not raising the debt ceiling would be “catastrophic.” Democratic leaders also often pointed to their party’s willingness to raise the debt ceiling under President Donald Trump.

Democratic leaders also accused Republicans of bluffing. President Joe Biden said of the Republican threat: “Nope. They’re not going to let us default. $8 billion—$8 trillion of that is on the Republican’s watch.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said simply, “I can’t believe Republicans will let the nation default.”

Rather than including the debt ceiling increase in reconciliation, Democrats quickly crafted the continuing resolution in mid-September, a move designed to give congressional leadership much needed time to negotiate with Republicans through December. The bill also would have ordered billions in new spending to address the ongoing Afghan special immigrant crisis and the aftereffects of Hurricane Ida.

Debate on the measure required 60 votes, a threshold rebellious Republicans easily denied to Democrats. With this vote, Republicans have effectively killed the legislation, forcing Democratic leaders back to the negotiating table.

And the clock is ticking for Congress to avert a default. Though the Treasury has resorted to “extraordinary measures” to continue to fund U.S. obligations, Yellen has said that the federal government will run out of money entirely by October without the go-ahead from Congress to issue new bonds.

A debt ceiling increase is absolutely essential to Democratic policy priorities, as they delegated $1.9 trillion to CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus relief earlier this year and hope to spend approximately $4.7 trillion more in their infrastructure and budget package.

Further, without an increase in the debt ceiling, the U.S. government will default for the first time in its history. Financial analysts from J.P. Morgan and Moody’s have joined the Treasury Secretary in warning against such an outcome, but Republicans remain adamant in their demands.

Schumer, predicting the final outcome of the vote, said that “after today, there will be no doubt which party is working to solve the problems that face this country and which party is accelerating us towards an unnecessary, avoidable disaster.”

McConnell shot back, accusing Democrats of “want[ing] to use this temporary pandemic as a Trojan horse for permanent socialism.”

He said of the debt ceiling that “for ten weeks, Democrats have known what kind of government funding legislation could pass the Senate and what kind would fail.” He continued: “Republicans are not rooting for a shutdown or a debt limit breach. We’ve given the united Democratic government total clarity about how each can be avoided.”

After the vote, Schumer said that the Republican Party had “become the party of default.” Senate Republicans, he said, “are playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States.”

Schumer also said that Democrats would “be taking action later this week” to avoid a default.

From The Epoch Times