Senate Clears Way to Raise Debt Ceiling

14 Republicans, including McConnell, vote with Democrats
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 8, 2021 12:00 AM CST
Updated Dec 9, 2021 7:15 PM CST
McConnell Helps Engineer 'Unusual' Deal on Debt Limit
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber followed by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Newser) Update: The Senate approved a one-time deal for raising the debt ceiling on Thursday. The measure passed with the help of 14 Republicans, the New York Times reports. A simple majority vote now will increase the borrowing limit; Democrats won't need any Republican votes. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted with Democrats and was publicly thanked by the majority leader. "I'm optimistic that after today’s vote, we'll be on a glide path to avoid a catastrophic default," Sen. Chuck Schumer said. Our original story from Dec. 7 follows:

Congressional leaders reached an elaborate deal Tuesday that will allow Democrats to lift the nation’s debt limit without any votes from Republicans, likely averting another last-minute rush to avoid a federal default. Hours later, the House passed legislation overwhelmingly along party lines that kicked off a multi-step process, the AP reports. Congress approved a $480 billion increase in the nation’s debt limit in October. That’s enough for the Treasury to finance the government’s operations through Dec. 15, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's projection. But Republicans have warned they won't vote for any future debt ceiling increase to ensure the federal government can meet its financial obligations, and instead, the politically unpopular measure would have to be passed entirely by the Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress.

President Joe Biden had called on Republicans to “get out of the way” if they won’t help Democrats shoulder the debt responsibility. But rather than step aside and allow for a quick vote, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has helped engineer an unusual legislative process that will play out over the next several days. Donald Trump, the former president, ridiculed McConnell for allowing any action, showing just how politically toxic the routine act of paying the nation’s bills has become. “I think this is in the best interest of the country,” said McConnell. “I think it is also in the best interest of Republicans, who feel very strongly that the previous debt ceilings we agreed to when President Trump was here carried us through August. And this current debt ceiling is indeed about the future and not about the past.”

The agreement spelled out in the House bill passed Tuesday establishes the days-long process ahead. In short, it would tuck a provision to fast-track the debt limit process into an unrelated Medicare bill that will prevent payment cuts to doctors and other health care providers. That measure passed the House by a vote of 222-212 with only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, siding with Democrats in voting for the measure. The measure now goes to the Senate, and if the Medicare bill becomes law, it will open the process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling through subsequent legislation with a Democrats-only majority vote. Key to the agreement is that Democrats will have to vote on a specific amount by which the debt ceiling would be lifted. The amount has not yet been disclosed, but it is sure to be a staggering sum. (More here.)

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