US Democrats have been under pressure to avert two looming potential crises this week: a possible government shutdown and a default, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned lawmakers her department would exhaust emergency measures to pay its bills around 18 October.
US Democrats have reached a deal with Republicans on a stopgap measure to avert a government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Wednesday night that a vote on the continuing resolution (CR), a temporary funding measure to keep the government running into early December, has been scheduled for Thursday morning. Government funding is set to expire at midnight on Thursday,
“We can approve this measure quickly and send it to the House so it can reach the president’s desk before funding expires midnight tomorrow… With so many critical issues to address, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown,” said Schumer earlier on Wednesday.
The stopgap bill, which will need to pass the House of Representatives, will include emergency funding for natural disaster relief and Afghan refugee resettlement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to alleviate fears over a possible government shutdown, saying on Wednesday she believed there would be “a big vote tomorrow.”
The stopgap measure up for vote on Thursday is aimed at averting just one looming crisis, as the country faces its first-ever potential default.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday warned Congress that the US will likely exhaust extraordinary measures to service the nation’s debt by 18 October unless lawmakers raise or suspend the debt limit.
Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that after the issue of funding the government has been resolved, Congress would need to “address the urgent matter of extending the debt ceiling”.
Government funding and the debt ceiling are separate fiscal issues, with the Democrats initially hoping to pair them and pass legislation that would resolve both.
However, GOP opposition in the Senate prevented that, as the Republicans insisted on a “clean” stopgap funding bill that would not include a debt limit provision. The GOP argued that Democrats should address the debt limit on their own.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved temporary legislation on 21 September, aimed at keeping the government funded through early December and raising the limit on federal borrowing through the end of 2022. The bill contained a rider for additional funding of the resettlement of Afghans evacuated from Kabul in August.
However, on Monday, the Senate voted 50-48 to increase the debt ceiling, thus falling sort of the 60-vote supermajority required to approve the measure.
Legislation was passed by the House of Representatives on 29 September in a 219-212 vote to suspend the US debt ceiling. All the Democrats with the exception of Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon supported it, while the full body of Republicans with the exception of Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois opposed it. The GOP has vowed the bill will not pass the Senate.
As Congress appears headed towards passing a funding bill without the debt limit attached, Schumer said that the Democrats were seeking a solution to dodge default, but slammed Republicans who “have stymied us at every opportunity”.
Schumer denounced Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP for failing to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling.
“If we always let the debt ceiling lapse because one party or the other didn’t like some future action that the other party would take, we’d never do it. It’s an absurd argument,” said Schumer.
While Democrats have the option of raising the debt limit on their own via a process known as budget reconciliation, Chuck Schumer has argued that would be too “risky” and “could well lead us to default.”
“In solving this crisis, this body cannot and will not go through a drawn out unpredictable process sought by the minority leader. It risks the full faith and credit of the United States. To do this through reconciliation requires ping ponging separate bills back from the Senate and the House. It’s uncharted waters. Individual senators could move to delay, delay and delay,” he said.