Congress is running out of time to prevent a shutdown and a default.
Sen. Republicans blocked Monday’s bill to fund the government and suspend the U.S. debt ceiling. Democrats are scrambling for ways to avoid an economic disaster.
The House passed legislation that would have funded the government until December and lifted the U.S. debt ceiling until December next year. This was after the midterm congressional election.
To avoid a shutdown, lawmakers must approve funding for the government before Friday. According to the Treasury Department, the U.S. is at risk of default if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by a point likely to occur in October.
The measure was opposed by every House Republican. However, the Senate GOP refused to allow Democrats to suspend the debt limit. All Republican senators voted against the legislation in a 48-50 vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) voted against the legislation as a procedural move to allow him to bring it up later.
Democrats must now make a series of complex maneuvers to avoid an unpredictable sequence of events that could destroy the economy and cost millions of Americans jobs. They may be forced by the Republican opposition to pass a short-term funding bill with GOP support and then approve a debt limit suspension entirely on their own — possibly as part of their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan.
“The Republican Party has solidified itself as the party of default, and it will be the American people who pay the price,” Schumer said after the vote.
He added that “we’ll be taking further action” this week to try to prevent a shutdown and default. He did not specify how Democrats would proceed.
Government funding will lapse if lawmakers do not pass an appropriations bill before midnight Thursday.
Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary to the United States, has informed lawmakers that the U.S. will run dry of options for paying its bills in October unless Congress increases the debt ceiling.
The debt limit and government funding are two separate issues. The ceiling cannot be raised or suspended, but it allows the U.S. borrow money to pay its existing obligations.
Democrats have criticized Republicans for threatening economic ruin while opposing a suspension of the debt ceiling, which they supported in the past. The party also pointed out that trillions of dollars have been spent by the GOP for emergency coronavirus assistance since the suspension was last made.
Republicans argue that their counterparts should suspend debt ceiling as they attempt to pass a $3.5 trillion investment in climate and social safety net without the GOP.
Before Monday’s vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated that Republicans would vote in favor of a short-term funding measure that does not increase the debt ceiling.
“We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” he said.
He tried before the failed vote to bring up an appropriations plan that does not address the borrowing limit. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., objected to his move.