Dems Tie Gov't Funding to Debt Bill 09/21 06:21
Democratic congressional leaders backed by the White House say they will
push ahead with a vote to fund the government and suspend the debt limit, all
but daring Republicans who say they will vote against it despite the risk of a
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic congressional leaders backed by the White
House say they will push ahead with a vote to fund the government and suspend
the debt limit, all but daring Republicans who say they will vote against it
despite the risk of a fiscal crisis.
Congress is rushing headlong into an all-too-familiar stalemate: The federal
government faces a shutdown if funding stops at the end of the fiscal year,
Sept. 30. At the same time, the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt
load if the borrowing limits are not waived or adjusted.
All this while Democratic lawmakers are laboring to shoulder President Joe
Biden's massive $3.5 trillion "build back better" agenda through the House and
Senate with stark opposition from Republicans.
"The American people expect our Republican colleagues to live up to their
responsibilities and make good on the debts they proudly helped incur," House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a joint
From the White House, the president backed the congressional leaders' plan
to hold the votes.
"This is a bipartisan responsibility, just as it was under my predecessor,"
Biden said in a tweet. "Blocking it would be inexcusable."
The magnitude of the challenges ahead and the speed required to accomplish
the job are like nothing Congress has faced in recent memory, situating Biden's
entire domestic agenda and the political fate of his Democratic party at a
As Democrats charge ahead, the Republicans as the minority party in Congress
hoping to regain control in the next election in 2022 plan to sit back,
watching and waiting to see if Biden and his allies can succeed against the
odds -- or spectacularly fail.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he's not about to help pay off
past debts when Biden is about to pile on more with a "reckless" tax and
"Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate
Republicans' help with raising the debt limit. I've explained this clearly and
consistently for over two months," McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.
The vote this week on funding to keep the government running past Sept. 30
and allow more borrowing will force the political stalemate into the open.
The Treasury Department warned that it will soon run out of cash-on-hand,
and have to rely on incoming receipts to pay its obligations, now at $28.4
trillion. That could force the Treasury to delay or miss payments, a
"Doing so would likely precipitate a historic financial crisis," wrote
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Wall Street Journal.
Stocks on Wall Street closed sharply lower Monday, handing the S&P 500 index
its biggest drop in four months as worries about heavily indebted Chinese real
estate developers rippled across markets and investors have concerns that the
U.S. Federal Reserve could signal that it's planning to pull back some of the
support measures it's been giving markets and the economy.
Once a routine matter, lifting the debt ceiling has become a political
weapon of choice for Republicans in Washington ever since the 2011 arrival of
tea party lawmakers who refused to allow it. At the time, they argued against
more spending and the standoff triggered a fiscal crisis.
Echoing that strategy, McConnell is refusing to provide Republican votes,
even though some GOP senators might have a tough time voting no.
The package is expected to keep most spending at its current levels on a
stopgap basis through the end of the year and include supplemental funds for
the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters, as well as money to
help defray the evacuations from Afghanistan. Tacking on legislative language
to allow more borrowing would cover the nation's debt payments through 2022.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, whose state was battered by the
hurricane and who is up for election next year, said he will likely vote for it
if "the disaster relief portion is acceptable." He added, "Because my people
desperately need the help."
When McConnell was in control of the Senate he relied on Democratic votes to
help raise the debt ceiling during the past administration and the Democrats
said they expect the same from him now. It typically takes 60 votes to advance
bills in what's now a divided 50-50 Senate, meaning at least 10 GOP senators
would be needed.
By withholding votes, Schumer said, "what Republicans are doing is nothing
short of a dine-and-dash of historic proportions."
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Democrats are negotiating among themselves
over Biden's big $3.5 trillion package as the price tag likely slips to win
over skeptical centrist lawmakers who view it as too much.
The size and scope of Biden's "Build Back Better" initiative cannot be
overstated. It touches almost all aspects of Americans' lives.
Biden's plan aims to not just rebuild the country after the COVID-19 crisis
and economic fallout, but begin to change longstanding federal spending
patterns in ways that provide more services to more Americans, and attempt to
level the growing income inequality that permeates the economy.
The proposal would impose tax hikes on corporations and wealthy Americans
earning beyond $400,000 a year and plow that money back into federal programs
for young and old. It would increase and expand government health, education
and family support programs for households, children and seniors, and boost
environmental infrastructure programs to fight climate change.
With Republicans opposed in lockstep to Biden's sweeping vision, Democrats
have no votes to spare in the Senate, and just a few votes' margin in the House.
Pelosi has promised a Sept. 27 vote on a companion bill, a $1 trillion
bipartisan infrastructure bill of public works projects that enjoys widespread
support from both parties in the Senate, though House Republicans mostly oppose
Even though that bipartisan bill should be an easy legislative lift, it too
faces a political obstacle course. Dozens of lawmakers in the Congressional
Progressive Caucus are expected to vote against it if it comes ahead of the
broader Biden package. But centrists won't vote for the broader package unless
they are assured the bipartisan bill will also be included.