The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, September 22, 2021 1:00 am

House hands funding bill to divided Senate

As shutdown looms, GOP opposed

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The House voted late Tuesday to keep the government funded, suspend the federal debt limit and provide disaster and refugee aid, setting up a high-stakes showdown with Republicans who oppose the package despite the risk of triggering a fiscal crisis.

The federal government faces a shutdown if funding stops on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year – midnight next Thursday. Additionally, at some point in October the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt load if its borrowing limits are not waived or adjusted.

Rushing to prevent that dire outcome, the Democratic-led House passed the measure by a party-line vote of 220-211. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to falter because of overwhelming GOP opposition.

“Our country will suffer greatly if we do not act now to stave off this unnecessary and preventable crisis,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said shortly before the vote.

Backed by the White House, the Democratic leaders pushed the package to approval at a time of great uncertainty in Congress. With lawmakers already chiseling away at the $3.5 trillion price tag of President Joe Biden's broad “build back better” agenda, immediate attention focused on the upcoming deadlines to avert deeper problems if votes to shore up government funding fail.

The package approved Tuesday would provide stopgap money to keep the government funded to Dec. 3 and extend borrowing authority through the end of 2022. It includes $28.6 billion in disaster relief for the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and other extreme weather events, and $6.3 billion to support Afghanistan evacuees in the fallout from the end of the 20-year war.

While suspending the debt ceiling allows the government to meet financial obligations already incurred, Republicans argued it would also facilitate a spending binge in the months ahead.

“I will not support signing a blank check as this majority is advancing the most reckless expansion of government in generations,” said Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pa., during the debate.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said since Democrats control the White House and Congress, it's their problem to find the votes – even though he had relied on bipartisan cooperation to approve the debt limits when Republicans were in charge.

“The debt ceiling will be raised as it always should be, but it will be raised by the Democrats,” McConnell said.

In the 50-50 Senate, Democrats will be hard-pressed to find 10 Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.

“This is playing with fire,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to fund the government since the last debt limit suspension expired July 31, and projects that at some point next month will run out cash reserves. Then, it will have to rely on incoming receipts to pay its obligations, now at $28.4 trillion. That could force the Treasury to delay or miss payments, a devastating situation.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics, warned that if lawmakers allow a federal debt default, “this economic scenario is cataclysmic.”

In a report being circulated by Democrats, Zandi warned that a potential downturn from government funding cutbacks would cost 6 million jobs and stock market losses would wipe out $15 trillion of household wealth.

Once a routine matter, raising the debt ceiling has become a political weapon of choice for Republicans in Washington ever since the 2011 arrival of tea party lawmakers who refused to allow the increase. At the time, they argued against more spending and the standoff triggered a fiscal crisis.

Echoing that strategy, McConnell is setting the tone for his party, but some GOP senators might have a tough time voting no.

Republican John Kennedy of Louisiana, whose state was battered by the hurricane and who is up for election next year, said he will likely vote for the increase. “My people desperately need the help,” he said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that “in our view, this should not be a controversial vote.” Psaki said Congress has raised the debt ceiling numerous times on a bipartisan basis, including three times under President Donald Trump.

Also

Young outlines opposition to bill

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, criticized the federal spending bill passed by the House on Tuesday, saying it will further Americans' dependence on government.

“From job-killing corporate tax hikes, to small-business money grabs, and hidden tax increases on the middle class, the Democrats' plan will punish job creators and workers and make us less competitive on the global stage,” Young said in a video statement.

He said the bill's emphasis on renewable energy is misguided and “will have disastrous, wide-reaching effects,” and its expansion of Medicare “is unnecessary, duplicative, and will come with higher costs, less access, and harm the quality of care providers are able to provide.”

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