Senate Republicans joined with Democrats on Sept. 30 to pass stopgap legislation to fund the government through December, averting a government shutdown set to begin in the early hours of Oct. 1. The House later aligned with the Senate, voting 254–175 to avert a government shutdown.
However, the measure fails to address the debt ceiling, which Republicans have said they won’t vote to raise.
On Sept. 27, Republicans showed solidarity against a bill that would have raised the debt ceiling, voting 50–49 to block debate on the bill.
The legislation would have put forward billions in new spending for ongoing crises from the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and the thousands of Afghan special immigrants hastily evacuated from the country. More pressingly, it would have extended the government funding deadline to Dec. 3.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisted that Republicans supported these elements of the bill, but wouldn’t vote for any measure that increased the debt ceiling.
Republicans Still Oppose Raising Debt Limit
Hoping to avert a shutdown, Democrats introduced a new “clean” stopgap bill that wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling. Like the previous bill, the newly passed stopgap would provide billions for hurricane relief and the Afghan special immigrant crisis, as well as extending the government funding deadline.
The bill passed the Senate on Sept. 30, advancing through the upper chamber in a 65–35 vote just hours before a government shutdown would have begun.
While McConnell was pleased with the passage of the clean bill to avert a shutdown, he continues to insist, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), that the party won’t support increasing the debt ceiling.
“On government funding, what Republicans laid out all along was a clean continuing resolution without the poison pill of a debt limit increase. That’s exactly what we’ll pass today,” McConnell said before the vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who introduced the new stopgap to the Senate, said of the vote: “This is a good outcome, one I am happy we are getting done. With so many things happening here in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to grind to a halt. But, of course, we have more work to do. Just as our Republican colleagues realize that a government shutdown would be catastrophic, they should realize that a default on the national debt would be even worse.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that while the Treasury is using “extraordinary measures” to continue to fund the government, these measures will run out and the government will be forced to default by mid-October if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. Yellen warned it would be “catastrophic,” an assessment shared by financial analysts at Moody’s and J.P. Morgan Bank.
Forty-six Republican signatories explained their opposition to increasing the ceiling in a petition drafted by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). The petition stated that Democrats were on an “unprecedented deficit spending spree” and Republicans said they refused to enable such spending by raising the debt ceiling.
Instead, Republicans have insisted that Democrats use the reconciliation process if they want to raise the debt limit.
The reconciliation process is one that allows certain bills related to federal revenues and spending to bypass the 60-vote threshold usually required to begin debate on a bill in the Senate. Currently, Democrats are using the process to push through their controversial budget, which has a top-line price of $3.5 trillion.
In his petition, Johnson argued that Democrats “have the power to … unilaterally raise the debt ceiling [through reconciliation], and they should not be allowed to pretend otherwise.”
At a Sept. 28 press conference, Schumer rejected this course of action.
“Going through reconciliation is risky to the country and is a non-starter,” he said, adding that using reconciliation to raise the debt limit is “very, very risky” and “we’re not pursuing that.”
Cruz, who joined his party in blocking the bill on Sept. 27, asserted that Republicans will maintain their resistance.
“I fully expect Schumer is going to surrender,” Cruz said. “And he’s going to do what he could have done weeks or months ago, which is [to raise] the debt ceiling using Democratic votes [through reconciliation]. Accordingly, Democrats will bear responsibility for the trillions in debt that they’re saddling on the country.”