U.S. Senate advances bill to lift debt ceiling; final passage awaited
Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell is still expected to insist that the next increase in December be achieved through the time-consuming "budget reconciliation" process, which would allow for passage without any votes from his party. Doing so could bolster Republican candidates in the 2022 congressional elections as they try to burnish their credentials as fiscal conservatives - even though most of them previously supported an array of measures passed during Republican Donald Trump's administration that jacked up U.S. budget deficits.
Legislation to raise the $28.4 trillion U.S. federal borrowing ceiling and avoid possible catastrophic debt defaults later this month drew enough support in the Senate on Thursday to advance toward passage. Eleven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in the Senate to vote to advance the measure to allow it to proceed. A vote on the debt limit hike itself was to follow.
The first vote came after hours of debate on the bill that would raise the debt limit by $480 billion - enough to keep Treasury borrowing and spending humming through at least early December. If the Senate cannot agree on speeding up the steps toward passage, the debate could spill into Friday or the weekend.
"We have reached agreement to extend the debt ceiling through early December, and it's our hope we can get this done as soon as today," Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said prior to the vote on Thursday. News of the negotiations drove Wall Street's main stock indexes to end sharply higher in a broad-based rally. In a sign of bond market relief, the yield on one-month Treasury bills fell to the lowest point since Sept. 8 as investors deemed that the risk of default had eased.
There were early signs of resistance from some Republicans who registered opposition to either the bill itself or the procedures for debating it. Gaining enough Republican cooperation to promptly move forward on the bill, No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune told reporters, "will be a painful birthing process."
Washington's debt limit troubles are unlikely to be resolved even with passage of the short-term increase. Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell is still expected to insist that the next increase in December be achieved through the time-consuming "budget reconciliation" process, which would allow for passage without any votes from his party.
Doing so could bolster Republican candidates in the 2022 congressional elections as they try to burnish their credentials as fiscal conservatives - even though most of them previously supported an array of measures passed during Republican Donald Trump's administration that jacked up U.S. budget deficits. Democrats have adamantly rejected using the reconciliation process, although they have used it to pass some of Biden's other priorities, saying that in this case it is too unwieldy and would establish a bad precedent.
Referring to the deal providing a debt limit reprieve until December, McConnell said in a Senate speech: "Now there will be no question. They'll (Democrats) have plenty of time" to pass the next increase using reconciliation. Democrats had been trying to pass legislation that would have raised the debt limit through the end of 2022, which Republicans blocked.
Without congressional action, the Treasury Department has forecast that it will run out of ways to pay all its bills and meet its debt obligations by Oct. 18. While the deal relieves debt ceiling pressures for now, it adds to the high-stakes, partisan battles Congress will wage through the end of the year.
Democrats want to pass two massive spending bills that make up much of Biden's domestic agenda in the coming weeks, including a multi-trillion-dollar social policy package to be passed by reconciliation and a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Biden administration also faces a deadline for funding the government beyond Dec. 3. The partisan debt limit fight raised Republican fears that Democrats might change a rule https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senate-filibuster-looms-large-leaders-seek-debt-ceiling-deal-2021-10-06 known as the filibuster that requires a supermajority of 60 votes for most legislation to advance if the debt issue were not resolved.
The 50-50 split in the Senate has allowed Republicans to use the filibuster to block several Democratic initiatives, though Vice President Kamala Harris has been able to cast a tie-breaking vote to pass Democratic initiatives when a supermajority is not needed. Biden said late on Tuesday that Democrats would consider making an exception to the filibuster https://www.reuters.com/world/us/what-is-us-senate-filibuster-why-is-everyone-talking-about-it-2021-10-06 to hike the debt ceiling and defend the economy.
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