Congress increased the country’s debt limit, but the deadline is over

The House on Tuesday raised the country’s debt limit, averting a default by nearly three months, but setting up a tough political hurdle for Democrats at the end of the year.

The bill was packed with several other measures, so there was no stand-alone vote on the unpopular loan limit increase. The big package passed from 219 to 206. The Senate previously approved the increase, which now goes to President Biden’s desk.

With a default off the table for now, Democrats are hoping to turn their attention to implementing Biden’s “Build Back Better” program, which will reshape the country’s social programs and improve its outdated infrastructure. Will do Leaders are expected to finalize the package by the end of the month, but there are important questions about whether Democrats can quickly iron out their policy differences.

And lurking beyond Biden’s top policy priority will be the same debt limit — which will likely need to be raised again in December or January — and a December 3 deadline for continuing government funding to survive the shutdown.

Allowing the debt limit to be breached would be the country’s first default on its debt, with the potential to stave off a global recession. The lapse in government funding, which has happened several times in recent years, would close national parks and museums and jeopardize federal programs.

Congress has a record of juggling its toughest priorities until the end of the year, with leaders using threats to force members to stay in Washington during the holidays as a pressure point. But this year’s to-do list is more grueling, with the crucial political stakes for Biden’s agenda and the 2022 midterm elections to decide control of Congress.

“December in Washington is always a challenge, and it will be one of the most challenging in recent memory because the scale and import of various legislative priorities is greater than any in recent memory,” said Mike Spahn, former longtime senior at Precision Strategies. Democratic Senate staff.

The debt limit could prove particularly complicated as Republicans are pushing Democrats to do it themselves, although it has previously been done with at least some bipartisan support. There is no clear path forward, and while both sides have used the debt ceiling as a form of political pressure in the past, neither is ready to lift the economy above it.

The vote on Tuesday to allow more federal borrowing for nearly three months – the date on which the new spending will end is not yet known – amounted to a short-term victory for Democrats.

He refused to accept a demand by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Democrats lift the debt ceiling with only their votes, using the same filibuster-proof procedural tools that Democrats would use to implement their social spending bill. hope to use. McConnell insisted for weeks that Republicans would not vote to help Democrats lift the debt limit.

In a rare move, McConnell blinked first. Seeing a possible default, he made a proposal to Democrats: Republicans would award 10 votes to Democrats to help them reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. But after that, he warned, Democrats would not be able to count on any GOP vote to raise the debt limit.

Several rank-and-file Republicans said McConnell’s offer was based on concerns that a lengthy debt ceiling debate would break some of the last Democratic holdouts in opposition to dropping filibusters, such as West Virginia’s Sens. Joe Manchin III and Kirsten Cinema Arizona. The Democrats had floated the idea of ​​a small carve-in to forgive filibuster only to address the debt ceiling. This will open the door for comprehensive resolution of Filbuster.

This was not a strong enough reason for many Republicans. In a closed-door meeting shortly before the Senate vote last week, Republicans expressed dismay at the proposal by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DNY).

It was on full display during the Senate vote. He and his leadership team provided a substantial portion of the 11 GOP votes. Others came from moderates and retired senators, who are not sensitive to the political consequences in the upcoming election.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “We all stood together and made clear that Democrats have every right to raise the debt limit and take responsibility for the trillions of debts they are irresponsibly taking on this.” adding to the country.” “We were winning that battle and Schumer was on the verge of surrender.”

After the Senate vote — as well as a speech by Schumer that Republicans saw as an openly partisan spike in football — McConnell wrote in a letter to Biden that Republicans would not help raise the debt limit again.

“In light of Sen. Schumer’s frenzy and my serious concerns that another huge, reckless, partisan spending bill will harm Americans and help China, I do not favor any future effort to minimize the consequences of Democratic mismanagement. I will be.” McConnell wrote in a letter to Biden on Friday.

Democrats’ position has been that they will not have time to raise the debt limit through conciliation, a legislative process that takes several days. His big concern is setting a precedent that only one party is responsible for raising the debt ceiling, which was seen as a basic function of governance till many years ago. Republicans say they have now given Democrats plenty of time to set up a reconciliation process to lift the December debt.

John Thune (RSD) said, “In my experience there is no Republican here who likes to deal with the debt ceiling.” “In this case, what we did is we took the main argument of the Democrats off the table that they didn’t have enough time. So it gives them some time.”

Democrats have yet to say how they will lift the debt limit next time. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) left the door open Tuesday to support a bill that would allow the Treasury Department to raise the debt limit while retaining power in Congress to eliminate the Treasury secretary. “I think it has merit,” Pelosi said of the idea, which never took off.

But many Democrats expect McConnell to turn again to avoid default. “For the next three months, we will continue to make clear that we are prepared to continue voting to pay our bills and are not Republicans,” said Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn).

And some believe that months of debate over debt limits will only strengthen Democrats’ position that both parties should shepherd the most basic of Congress’s actions.

“More time will only harden Democrats into their belief that reconciliation should be off the table” [to raise the debt ceiling,] And that by agreement or more aggressive action, they should be allowed to do so through regular order,” Spahn said.

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