WASHINGTON (AP) – The House of Representatives has voted to keep government funding on, suspend the national debt ceiling, and provide disaster and refugee relief, and has held a grand showdown with Republicans rejecting the package despite the risk of sparking a financial crisis.
The federal government is about to close if funding is suspended on September 30, the end of the budget year – at midnight next Thursday. Additionally, at some point in October, the US runs the risk of losing its cumulative debt burden if its credit limits are not lifted or adjusted.
The Democratic-led house rushed to prevent this dire outcome and passed the measure on Tuesday evening with a vote of 220 to 211 party lines. The bill is now going to the Senate, where it is likely to stall because of overwhelming opposition from the GOP.
“Our country will suffer a lot if we do not act now to avert this unnecessary and avoidable crisis,” said House majority leader Steny Hoyer shortly before the vote.
With the support of the White House, Democratic leaders pushed the package for approval in Congress at a time of great uncertainty. With lawmakers already chiselling the $ 3.5 trillion price tag away from President Joe Biden’s broad agenda for “better building”, immediate attention focused on the deadlines ahead to avert deeper problems if votes to support the Government funding should fail.
The package, approved on Tuesday, would provide a stopgap solution to maintain government funding through December 3 and extend borrowing until the end of 2022 to assist Afghan evacuees in the aftermath of the end of the 20 Years War.
While the debt ceiling suspension allows the government to meet financial commitments it has already made, Republicans argued that it would also ease a spending spree in the coming months.
“I will not support the signing of a blank check as this majority is driving the most ruthless expansion of the government in generations,” said Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pa., During the debate.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that since the Democrats control the White House and Congress, getting the votes is their problem – though he had relied on bipartisan cooperation to approve the debt limits rather than that Republicans were in charge.
“The debt ceiling is being raised, as it should always be, but it is being raised by the Democrats,” McConnell said.
In the 50-50 Senate, Democrats will have a hard time finding 10 Republicans who hit the 60-vote threshold required to beat a filibuster.
“It’s playing with fire,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.
The Treasury Department has used “extraordinary measures” to fund the government since the last debt ceiling suspension expired on July 31, and projects that will be depleted sometime next month. Then it will have to rely on incoming receipts to settle its debt, which is now $ 28.4 trillion. That could force the Treasury Department to delay or miss out on payments, a devastating situation.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, warned that if lawmakers allowed a sovereign default, “this economic scenario is catastrophic”.
In a report circulated by the Democrats, Zandi warned that a potential decline from cuts in government funds would cost 6 million jobs and wipe out $ 15 trillion in household wealth losses on the stock exchanges.
Once a routine matter, raising the debt ceiling for Republicans in Washington has become a political weapon of choice since the arrival of Tea Party lawmakers in 2011, who refused to allow it to increase. At the time, they argued against spending more and the stalemate sparked a fiscal crisis.
Following this strategy, McConnell sets the tone for his party, but some GOP Senators may have a hard time voting no.
Louisiana Republican, John Kennedy, whose state was hit by the hurricane and who is up for election next year, said he would likely vote in favor of the increase. “My people urgently need help,” he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that “we don’t think this should be a controversial vote.” Psaki said Congress raised the debt ceiling multiple times across party lines, including three times under President Donald Trump.
Rosa DeLauro MP, Democratic chairwoman of the House Budgets Committee, was forced to table another version of the bill on Tuesday after some Democrats opposed adding $ 1 billion to Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the missiles used to intercept short circuits – missiles fired into the country.
The Israeli defense issue divides the Democrats, but DeLauro assured his colleagues that money for the weapons system would be included in the annual defense bill. Hoyer went a step further and said he would come up with a bill this week to populate the Iron Dome system.
The Republicans were very critical of the change and promised to stand by as allies with Israel.
Meanwhile, Democrats were negotiating behind the scenes on Biden’s “Build Better” big package as the price tag is likely to slide to win over skeptical centrist lawmakers who think it’s too much.
In public, the White House remains confident that the bill will be passed soon, despite sharp gaps between progressives and moderates in the party over the final size of the package and an accompanying $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
There was a flurry of White House contacts with the Democrats on Capitol Hill, and Biden himself received a call from lawmakers to flatter. Following his recent meetings with Sens. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., spoke to a variety of lawmakers, according to a White House official who is familiar with the calls and has given anonymity to discuss them.
Biden’s great initiative touches almost every aspect of American life. It would impose tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans who make more than $ 400,000 a year and put that money back into federal programs for young and old, including government health, education, and family benefits, and environmental efforts to combat climate change.
With Republicans against Biden’s vision, the Democrats run out of votes in the Senate and only a few votes ahead in the House of Representatives.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi promised a vote on Sept. 27 on the accompanying $ 1 trillion trillion in public works that the Senate has already passed.
Even if this bipartisan bill is supposed to be a simple bill, it is also facing a political obstacle course. Dozens of lawmakers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus are expected to vote against it if it is ahead of the broader Biden package. And centrists will not vote for the broader package unless reassured that bipartisan law is included as well.
Associate press writers Darlene Superville and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.