Senate Republicans blocked a key procedural vote to advance the Democrat-backed measure to fund the government and suspend the debt ceiling Monday evening, leaving Democrats scrambling with less than three days to figure out how to avert a shutdown with its deadline looming at the end of the week.
The vote was 48-50, with No Republicans voted in favor of the measure. Sixty votes were needed to break a filibuster to advance the procedural motion. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) switched his vote to “no” in a last-minute procedural move that allows him to call for another vote on the measure at another time.
“I changed my vote from yes to no in order to reserve the option of additional action on the House-passed legislation. Keeping the government open and preventing a default is vital to our country’s future, and we’ll be taking further action to prevent this from happening this week,” Schumer said.
The stopgap measure included funding the government through Dec. 3 and suspend the debt ceiling until Dec 2022. The bill also includes $28.6 billion in disaster aid to address recent hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters and $6.3 billion in funding for Afghan refugees who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban’s rapid takeover last month.
Schumer lambasted Republicans after the vote, saying the GOP had “voted to drive our country straight to a government shutdown and the first default in our country’s history.”
“The Republican default will raise the deficit by more than the American Rescue Plan. Yet Republicans still obstruct it tonight. It’s one of the most reckless, one of the most irresponsible votes I’ve seen taken in the Senate, and it should send a signal to every family, small business, market watcher about who in this chamber is in favor of endangering the economic stability of our country,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Democratic leaders haven’t unveiled what their next step will be following the known failed vote. There is no public Plan B at the moment, but sources are telling reporters that Senate Democrats might introduce a standalone bill, ditching consideration of debt ceiling suspension provision, and only address government funding and hurricane relief.
Congress has until the end of Thursday to approve funding for the government or trigger a shutdown starting Friday morning. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department has also warned that the federal government borrowing limit is set to expire in mid-October.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised the alarm Monday, stating that any inaction from Congress in not raising the debt ceiling within the next few days will risk seeing the U.S. defaulting on its debt for the first time in history, potentially destabilizing global markets and triggering an “economic catastrophe.”
According to a forecast released Friday by the bipartisan policy center, the U.S. is on track to default on the national debt between Oct. 15 and Nov. 4 if Congress cannot raise the federal debt ceiling.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has warned that Republicans are staunchly opposed to any measure of hiking the debt limit, arguing the issue should be resolved within the majority party — meaning they could add a bill to raise the debt limit within the reconciliation. Democrats are refusing to do this provision solo, declaring they won’t set a precedent in which only one party is responsible for paying the country’s debt bills that were racked up amongst both parties.
McConnell, prior to the vote, pushed for a government funding standalone bill to strip the debt ceiling provision, but Democratic lawmakers blocked that initiative.
“We will support a clean continuing resolution that will prevent a government shutdown,” McConnell said Monday afternoon on the Senate floor. “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.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) slammed Schumer for attaching the debt ceiling to the government funding measure, which includes majorly needed aid for states recently hit hard by natural disasters, such as Lousiana from Hurricane Ida.
“Sen. McConnell’s legislation does everything except one thing, increasing the debt ceiling, that Sen. Schumer can do in a matter of days on his own. Why are we fighting over this? Nature abhors a moron. It is moronic for us to be having this fight when it can be so easily solved,” Kennedy said.