Congress averted a catastrophic debt default early Wednesday morning after Democratic majorities in both chambers voted to send a $2.5trillion increase in the nation’s borrowing authority to President Joe Biden, despite Republican opposition.
The House gave final approval to the legislation early Wednesday morning on a near-party-line 221-209 vote, defusing a volatile issue until after the 2022 midterm elections.
The action came just hours shy of a deadline set by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who warned last month that she was running out of maneuvering room to avoid the nation’s first-ever default.
‘The full faith and credit of the United States should never be questioned,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said from the House floor shortly before the vote.
Yet the bill — which drew only one Republican vote in the House, from Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger — also saddled vulnerable Democrats with a tough vote on the cusp of an election year when both chambers will be up for grabs.
Congress sends the $2.5trillion debt limit increase to President Joe Biden. Before the House voted, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (pictured) said: ‘The full faith and credit of the United States should never be questioned’
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (right) struck a deal on the debt ceiling last week, which will allow just a simple majority to move a debt ceiling resolution through the Senate Tuesday, before the December 15 deadline
Republicans, meanwhile, said they were perplexed by the Democrats’ scramble to act.
‘Democrats have known this day is coming for two years and did absolutely nothing,’ said Republican Texas Representative Kevin Brady.
The Senate voted Tuesday afternoon to raise the debt – a day before Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US could go into default.
Only Democrats voted in favor of the hike, with the final vote standing at 50 to 49, with one Republican abstaining. That meant there was no need for Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie.
Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a deal last week, where they attached a rule-change to another bill that would allow the debt ceiling resolution to go forward with a simple majority vote – instead of the typical 60 votes needed for cloture.
This allowed Democrats to avoid a Republican filibuster threat – and permitted McConnell to call it a win, as he wanted only Democrats to vote for the hike – enabling the GOP to go after Democrats for the debt in the run-up to the 2022 midterms.
Still, former President Donald Trump and other Republicans grumbled that McConnell allowed Democrats to utilize a fast-track approach, instead of using the more cumbersome process of reconciliation to get the bill through.
The Senate voted Tuesday afternoon to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5trillion. Only Democrats voted in favor of the hike, with the final vote standing at 50 to 49, with one Republican abstaining
Schumer said he expected the $2.5trillion debt ceiling hike to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills through sometime in 2023
On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would allow them to raise the debt ceiling one time using a simple majority.
In a vote of 64 to 36, 14 Republicans joined the Democrats in a procedural vote on a bill that delays Medicare sequestration cuts for three months that also contains a provision that allows for the debt ceiling to be raised one time using a simple majority.
Schumer thanked McConnell for playing ball and said on the Senate floor Thursday that their conversations were ‘fruitful, candid, productive’ and said this was the ‘responsible’ action to take.
Republicans who joined the Democrats for the cloture vote included McConnell and Sens. John Thune, John Barrasso, Shelley Moore Capito, Roger Wicker, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Thom Tillis, Lisa Murkowski, Richard Burr, Joni Ernst, John Cornyn, Mitt Romney and Rob Portman.
On final passage – which was 59 to 34 – 10 Republicans joined 49 Democrats in getting the bill over the line.
They included Barrasso, Blunt, Capito, Collins, McConnell, Murkowski, Portman, Romney, Thune and Tillis.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell prior to the vote saying their conversations were ‘fruitful, candid, productive’ and said this was the ‘responsible’ action to take
Fourteen Republicans joined the Democrats Thursday to vote for cloture for a bill that contained a provision that will allow the Senate to pass a debt ceiling hike before the December 15 deadline using only Democratic votes. Sixty votes are needed for cloture
The bill was approved by the Senate 59 to 34 later Thursday night. In this vote, 10 Republicans voted alongside 49 Democrats for final passage. The Medicare bill contained a provision that would allow Democrats to vote the debt ceiling using a simple majority one-time only
Other Republicans have grumbled about the deal, having hoped that McConnell would force Democrats to use the more cumbersome process of reconciliation to push up the debt ceiling.
Critics, including Trump, have pressed McConnell to drag out the process, with Trump incorrectly believing it would thwart Democratic efforts to push President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill.
‘So Mitch McConnell has the greatest hand, the greatest, the best, this is such an easy negotiation to kill the ‘Build Back Worse’ plan of Biden. … And we have a thing called the debt ceiling. And this morning, I hear he gave it up,’ Trump claimed on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Wednesday.
‘He gave it up for practically nothing. He could have used the debt ceiling card … the debt ceiling is psychological. This is not psychological. This is fact. This will destroy our country, the fabric of the country as we know it,’ Trump said of Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, seen speaking at a service for the late Sen. Bob Dole earlier Thursday, agreed to a debt ceiling deal with Schumer that left some members of his party grumbling
Democrats already planned to use reconciliation – which allows them to bypass a Republican filibuster threat – to get the $1.75 trillion bill over the line, so holding up the debt ceiling process would only create a delay.
Schumer has said he wants Build Back Better passed by Christmas.
Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, however, has remained resistant.
Other Republicans feared that allowing Democrats to bypass the filibuster one time by adding a provision to a separate bill, would open the door for more carve-outs down the road.
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, warned it could ‘neuter the Senate.’
‘IT IS AKIN TO ‘NUKING THE FILIBUSTER!” he tweeted in all caps.
Still, 10 Republican votes were needed to push the process forward.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, argued that Republicans were still giving Democrats assistance – even if GOP senators won’t be needed for the final vote on the debt ceiling.
‘I don’t think Republicans should be facilitating adding trillions in debt,’ the Texas Republican said, according to Wednesday’s Playbook.
Over on the House side, GOP Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means committee, complained that the deal mucked up what should have been a bipartisan Medicare bill, calling it a ‘poison pill.’
‘You wrecked a bipartisan agreement for your debt ceiling crisis,’ Brady said Tuesday night on the floor.
On Tuesday night, the House passed the Medicare-debt ceiling bill with a vote of 222 to 212, with the support of just one Republican, retiring GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
The debt ceiling has generally been voted on by members of both parties, as the debt was taken on by both Republican and Democratic presidents.
But McConnell, with few cards in his hand with Democrats controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, decided earlier this year to make it a hurdle for his Democratic colleagues – telling them they must raise the debt ceiling alone.
Republicans are eager to use the debt issue – as they did in the 2010 midterms to take Congress away from the Democrats – against the Democrats in Congressional races next year.
McConnell argued that the deal struck with Schumer still sticks to that.
‘The red line is intact,’ McConnell said. ‘The red line is that you have a simple majority party-line vote on the debt ceiling. That’s exactly where we will end up.’