A short-term government funding bill that included language to raise the US debt ceiling failed its first test vote in the Senate Monday, leaving Congress just days to figure out a plan to avert a looming government shutdown.
An effort to begin debate on the measure failed 50-48, with 49 Republicans voting against it. The attempt had needed 60 votes to succeed.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), initially voted “yes,” but changed his vote to “no” in order to potentially bring the issue to another vote at a later date.
Schumer had opted to bring the measure to the floor despite warnings from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that the majority of his conference would not support the measure due to its provision increasing the federal government’s borrowing limit.
Shortly before the vote, McConnell attempted to remove the debt ceiling provision from the bill by getting unanimous consent from his colleagues, but Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) objected.
“For more than two months now, Senate Republicans have been completely clear about how this process will play out,” McConnell said on the Senate floor earlier Monday. “So let me make it abundantly clear one more time: We will support a clean continuing resolution that will prevent a government shutdown, get disaster relief to Louisiana, help properly vetted Afghanistan refugees who put themselves on the line for America, and support the Iron Dome assistance for our ally, Israel.
“We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” the minority leader added. “As we speak, Democrats are behind closed doors assembling a multi-trillion-dollar reckless taxing-and-spending spree. There’s no chance Republicans will help lift Democrats’ credit limit so they can immediately steamroll through a socialist binge that will hurt families and help China.”
Republicans have repeatedly called on Democrats to raise the debt limit by using the reconciliation process — a move which would not require any GOP support — arguing that the debt ceiling increase would only provide Democrats the opportunity to “recklessly spend” on their partisan priorities.
The pushback from GOP lawmakers comes as House Democratic leadership push forward this week with two bills — a Senate-passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, and a $3.5 trillion social spending bill — aimed at accomplishing some of the Biden Administration’s top priorities.
Democrats have slammed Republicans for refusing to get on board with the debt ceiling increase, arguing that raising the limit has traditionally been done in a bipartisan fashion and that it is necessary to pay for spending enacted under the previous administration.
“There is a very simple step we can take today to guarantee the government won’t default and won’t shut down,” Schumer said on the floor Monday. “Both sides can come together to vote yes on today’s vote and vote to pass the continuing resolution. Just as Democrats worked in a bipartisan fashion under the Trump administration, Republicans must now step up to the plate.
“To do otherwise is the height of recklessness, irresponsibility,” Schumer added. “Republicans say they don’t want to see a government shutdown, they say they don’t want to see our government default on our debt. Then they should vote yes. It’s plain and simple. It’s very clear.”
The continuing resolution, which passed the House on Tuesday, would keep the government funded through Dec. 3, increase the debt ceiling through Dec. 16, 2022 and provide $10 billion for emergency disaster aid to “cover losses from natural disasters occurring in 2020 and 2021.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has repeatedly called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling, writing in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that “the overwhelming consensus among economists and Treasury officials of both parties is that failing to raise the debt limit would produce widespread economic catastrophe.”
Current government funding expires at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 30. It was not immediately clear Monday whether Democratic leaders would bring up a so-called “clean” measure, which would remove the debt ceiling provision.