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House Approves Measure to Assure Swift Passage of Debt Ceiling Increase

December 8, 2021 by Dan McCue
House Approves Measure to Assure Swift Passage of Debt Ceiling Increase
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined at right by Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., looks over his notes as he prepares to speak to reporters after a Democratic policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The House approved legislation on Tuesday paving the way for an increase in the debt ceiling after congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle agreed to an unusual procedure that could avert the nation’s first-ever budget default.

The procedural measure would limit Senate debate on a separate debt ceiling increase bill to 10 hours and bypass the often time consuming motions that minority parties use to frustrate the aims of the other.

Under the terms of the House bill, the proposal is tied to legislation that would postpone scheduled cuts to Medicare, farm aid and other mandatory spending programs that were set to occur next year. 

Once that legislation is passed, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., only needs to introduce a joint resolution no later than Dec. 31 to increase the $28.9 trillion debt ceiling by an amount yet to be determined.

After that, only one cloture vote would be needed with a simple majority vote being the threshold for passage. 

The special procedure, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already endorsed, won’t be used to pass any other piece of legislation and will expire on Jan. 16.

“I’m confident that this particular procedure coupled with the avoidance of Medicare cuts will achieve enough Republican support to clear the 60 vote threshold,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.

The 222-212 vote on the measure in the House was largely along party lines, with only Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., joining Democrats in voting for it.

The Treasury Department has said it could breach the statutory limit on its ability to borrow to finance the federal government’s obligations soon after Dec. 15 without congressional action. 

Such a default would have catastrophic ramifications for the global economy.

As to what the new debt limit will be, that’s anybody’s guess at this point.

A number of Democrats would like to see a figure that keeps the government running and budgetary grandstanding to a minimum through the midterm elections.

A recent Treasury estimate suggested that could mean a hike to as much as $2.5 trillion.

The deal making came after months of Senate Republicans balking at going along with the debt-limit increase and insisting the Democrats go it alone.

The catch was that the Republicans then threatened to filibuster the bill and block it. Instead, they wanted to force the Democrats to use the same budget reconciliation process they are using to pass President Biden’s social spending and climate bill.

But the Democrats refused to go that route, arguing, among other things, that it would be too time-consuming and would bring the nation perilously close to default.

Though the new measure voids Republicans’ ability to filibuster on the debt ceiling, McConnell professed to be happy with it.

“I believe we’ve reached here a solution to the debt ceiling issue that’s consistent with Republican views of raising the debt ceiling for this amount at this particular time and allows the Democrats to proudly own it,” he said.

On Thursday, Schumer thanked McConnell for working across the aisle “To find a responsible path that avoids partisan brinkmanship.”

“Democrats have always said that the Senate should be able to raise the debt limit without resorting to a convoluted, lengthy, and risky reconciliation process. And under our plan we won’t have to do that,” Schumer said.

“Democrats have also said, repeatedly, that the responsible thing to do is raise the debt ceiling – both Democrats and Republicans voted for the spending increase – so we’ve said repeatedly that we’re ready to shoulder this burden, even if our Republican colleagues are not going to be able to,” he continued.

“It now looks like we’ll be able to do that … this agreement we’ve secured is the responsible path forward: no gamesmanship on the debt limit means no default on our sovereign debt and the calamity, the calamity, that would cause. And, again, I thank my Republican colleagues and Leader McConnell. We have had fruitful, honest, and good discussions over the last several weeks to come up with this proposal.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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