Thursday, October 28, 2021

Congress trying to avoid partial government shutdown

WASHINGTON (WNN) — Congress is trying to avert one crisis while tackling another crisis with the Senate ready to approve legislation that will fund the federal government in early December.

The House is expected to pass the measure after a Senate vote on Thursday to halt a partial government shutdown when the new budget year begins Friday.

Democrats were forced to remove the suspension of the federal government’s borrowing limits from the bill at the urging of Republicans. If the debt limit is not raised by October 18, the United States will probably face a financial crisis and an economic downturn.Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

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Republicans say Democrats have votes to raise the debt limit on their own, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is insisting they do so.

But the most immediate priority is before Congress. The government has to keep running after the current budget year ends on Thursday midnight. The expected approval of the bill would give lawmakers more time to prepare spending bills that would fund federal agencies and the programs they run.

Meanwhile, Democrats are struggling about how to get President Joe Biden’s top domestic priorities over the finish line. There is a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes $550 billion in new spending for roads, bridges, broadband and other programs, as well as a $3.5 trillion package of social, health and environmental programs..

“It’s a good result, I’m glad we’re doing,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.Y., said before the vote. “With so many things to take care of in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to stop.”

The short-term spending law would provide about $28.6 billion in disaster relief for those recovering from Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters, and help pull Afghanistan out of a 20-year war between the US and the Taliban..

Last-hour action to avoid partial government shutdowns has become almost routine in recent years, with lawmakers usually able to compromise. The funding bill was slowed this time due to disagreements over allowing the government to borrow more so that it could meet its financial obligations. The borrowing limit is currently set at $28.4 trillion.

The US has never defaulted on its debts in the modern era and historically, both sides have voted to raise the limit. Democrats joined the Republican Senate majority three times in doing so during Donald Trump’s presidency. This time Democrats wanted to address both priorities in one bill, but Senate Republicans blocked that effort on Monday.

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Raising or suspending debt limits allows the federal government to pay off obligations that have already been incurred. It does not authorize new spending. McConnell has argued that Democrats should pass a debt ceiling expansion with the same budgetary tools they are using to expand social safety net programs and pass a $3.5 trillion effort to tackle climate change . He reiterated that warning as the Senate opened on Thursday, even as Democrats labeled that option a “nonstarter.”

“We are able to fund the government today because the majority has accepted the reality. The same will need to be done on the debt limit next week,” McConnell said.

House Democrats late Wednesday pushed through a stand-alone bill that would suspend the debt limit until December 2022. Schumer said he would bring the measure to the Senate floor, but the bill is almost certain to be blocked by a Republican filibuster..

The arguments made in both the Houses about the debt ceiling follow similar themes.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told Republicans, “You’re more interested in punishing the Democrats than in preserving our credit, and that’s something that got me going a real hard way around my head.” Time is running out.” “The idea of ​​not paying the bills just because we don’t like (Biden’s) policies is the wrong way to go.”

Fearless, Republicans argued that the Democrats chose to Ram on their own through their political preferences and are thus responsible for raising the debt limit on their own.

“As long as the Democratic majority continues to insist on spending money on fists, Republicans will refuse to help them lift the debt limit,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

The Treasury has taken steps to preserve cash, but once it runs out, it will be forced to rely on incoming revenue to pay off its obligations. This will likely mean delayed payments to Social Security recipients, veterans and government employees, including military personnel. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank, projects that the federal government will be unable to meet about 40% of payments in the coming weeks.

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Associated Press writer Brian Slodisko contributed to this report.

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