House Passes Spending Bill To Avert Government Shutdown And Suspend Debt Limit—But Senate GOP Threatening To Kill It

With a potential government shutdown just days away, the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution Wednesday that would keep the government running through December and suspend the debt ceiling for another year, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where Republicans are refusing to cooperate to once again raise the amount the Treasury can borrow, incensed over Democratic efforts to advance multi-trillion-dollar spending measures despite GOP opposition.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, speaks to reporters at Washington's Capitol. ASSOCIATED PRS

The Key Facts

The House approved the 94-page bill Tuesday evening in a party-line vote 220 to211. All Democrats and all Republicans voted for it. The bill would allow federal funding to be extended from September 30 through December 3. This would prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month and give lawmakers approximately nine weeks to approve a full year's budget. However, it would also suspend debt ceiling until December 2022 which is strongly opposed by key Senate Republicans. Jointly, Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker (D.Calif.), and Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader (D.N.Y.), stated that suspending the debt limit was intended to allow the government to meet its obligations. They cited the $908 billion stimulus bill, which was passed on a bipartisan basis in December. The Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act also authorizes $28.6bn for emergency funds and $6.3billion to aid Afghan refugees. These are bipartisan priorities that were deemed "critical" by the White House earlier in the month to avoid any "severe disruptions in relief efforts. Shortly after Tuesday's release, Republicans attacked the bill with Senator Richard Shelby (R.Ala.), saying that he supported advancing a continuing solution with "much needed disaster relief" and targeted Afghan assistance. However, he pledged not to support any package that increases the debt limit. The Senate will vote on the continuing resolution next week.

Important Quote

"The American people expect our Republican counterparts to fulfill their responsibilities and pay back the debts that they proudly indebted to in the [December stimuli] package that helped American small businesses and families reeling from the Covid crises," Schumer and Pelosi said Tuesday.

Chief Critic

"Democrats don't get to ram through radical and far-left policies using party-line votes. They brag about how they have transformed the country. But then they demand bipartisan coverage for racking up historical debt," tweeted Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky.). He added: "As they have said since July, we will need to address our debt limit ourselves."

Important Background

Officials from the White House warned last week that the United States could default in its debt and plunge into recession if Congress doesn't increase or suspend the debt limit before next month. Friday's White House statement stated that the U.S. economy is just beginning to recover from the pandemic. A manufactured debt ceiling crisis could threaten our gains and future recovery. The ripple effects of defaulting on U.S. obligations could harm cities and states throughout the country. This was stated by the White House Friday. Although it is not clear whether Democrats will address the debt limit without Republican support for now, Schumer said last week that lawmakers were working and had "a variety of options".

Big Number

$29 trillion This is nearly the amount of national debt that the federal government has, compared to less than $20 trillion five-years ago.

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White House warns that the United States could fall into recession if it reaches its debt ceiling next month (Forbes).

White House asks Congress for Billions in Additional Funds for Natural Disasters, Afghan Refugees. (Forbes).

Key House Republicans Reject $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill from Progressive Boycott (Forbes).