The House voted early on Dec. 15 to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion until 2023, just in time for the deadline set by the Treasury Department, potentially avoiding an economic crisis.
Lawmakers passed the bill, which increases the limit to close to $31 trillion, in a 221–209 vote with just one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), voting yes.
The Senate had previously approved the measure in a 50–49 party-line vote on Dec. 14 with no Republican support after months of disagreements between Democrats and Republicans, with the latter refusing to help raise the limit on the Democrats’ “out-of-control spending spree.”
The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law, ending months of back and forth between both parties and a potential U.S. default that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned would be economically “catastrophic.”
Currently, federal debt is $28.9 trillion, and the latest increase to the debt ceiling is the largest in recent history. After Republicans filibustered one effort to raise the debt ceiling through normal legislative means, leaders from both parties reached a deal to temporarily extend the debt ceiling until an agreement could be reached.
Eventually, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) arrived at a deal that changed Senate rules to allow Democrats to pass the measure with a simple majority rather than the 60 typically needed to overcome the filibuster.
Schumer said the increase would take borrowing into 2023, through next year’s Nov. 8 midterm elections, which will determine control of Congress.
Schumer said on the floor: “As I have said repeatedly, this is about paying debt accumulated by both parties, so I am pleased Republicans and Democrats came together to facilitate a process that has made addressing the debt ceiling possible. I want to thank the Republican leader and all my Republican colleagues who reached out across the aisle in good faith to bring us to this point.
“No brinksmanship, no default on the debt, no risk of another recession: responsible governing has won on this exceedingly important issue. The American people can breathe easy and rest assured there will not be a default.”
“I want to be very clear: Raising the debt ceiling is not about incurring new debts, but rather enabling the federal government to keep its existing commitments,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “By raising the debt limit, we are meeting our existing obligations to members of the military, veterans, and recipients of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.”
Republicans, who control half of the Senate’s 100 seats, have made associations between the vote raising the debt ceiling to Biden’s $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” plan, which seeks to fund multiple items, from climate change-related matters to the expansion of affordable health care.
“Later today, every Senate Democrat is going to vote on party lines to raise our nation’s debt limit by trillions of dollars,” McConnell said ahead of the vote. “If they jam through another reckless taxing and spending spree, this massive debt increase will just be the beginning.”
Reuters contributed to this report.