House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit

The House on Tuesday passed legislation that would prevent a government shutdown and suspend the debt limit ahead of looming deadlines with only days to spare, although the measure is set to run into a GOP wall in the Senate.

The bill passed on a party-line vote of 220-211.

It now heads to the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans would need to join with all Democrats for passage. 

Nearly every Republican senator has said that they will oppose a debt limit suspension, arguing that Democrats should instead act on their own through the budget reconciliation process that can circumvent a filibuster and is being used for the $3.5 trillion social spending package.

Democrats are nonetheless attaching the debt limit suspension through Dec. 16, 2022, to a must-pass bill to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 in an attempt to pressure Republicans to drop their threats.

It’s also unclear if the reconciliation package would be ready in time to be used as a legislative vehicle for addressing the debt limit.

The debt limit was reinstated on Aug. 1, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that if Congress doesn’t raise or suspend the ceiling, the federal government will be unable to pay its bills sometime in October.

Democrats further noted that they voted with Republicans multiple times to suspend the debt limit during the Trump administration and argued the issue should continue to be addressed on a bipartisan basis to ensure that the U.S. meets its obligations on debt that’s already incurred.

“I hope Republicans will be consistent and will do as they did before: vote to prevent a default and spare the American people from yet another damaging economic crisis right as we are coming out of a pandemic,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“This is not a Democratic debt. It’s not a Republican debt. It is our debt. It is the debt of the United States of America. We don’t welch on our debts. We pay our debts,” he said.

Republicans insisted that they will not back a measure to prevent the nation from defaulting on its debt obligations.

“The bill that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] is bringing through this week will not become law. They’re going to have to go back to the drawing board,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

The stopgap bill would fund federal agencies through Dec. 3, which would give Congress time to complete work on long-term appropriations bills by then.

The bill also includes $28.6 billion to provide relief following recent natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms.

At least one Louisiana Republican, Sen. John Kennedy, has said he will likely vote for the legislation because of the disaster aid that would go to his state, which was ravaged by Hurricane Ida. Louisiana’s other senator, Republican Bill Cassidy, hasn’t yet said how he’ll vote.

But other Louisiana Republicans are urging their colleagues to vote against the bill because of the debt limit suspension despite the disaster aid, including Scalise and Rep. Mike Johnson, who serves as vice chairman of the House GOP conference.

“We wanted that to be a stand-alone bill, and I think in the end it will be separated from this package before it’s all said and done, I think by the end of next week,” Scalise said.

The legislation also includes $6.3 billion to temporarily provide shelter for Afghan refugees at American facilities and in foreign countries as well as for resettlement efforts in the U.S.

House Democrats faced an internal hiccup on Tuesday when some progressives objected to a provision that was initially in the bill to provide $1 billion for supporting Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Since House Democrats can afford only three defections and still pass legislation on their own without any assistance from Republicans, leaders worked to ensure they could keep their caucus in line. The provision was subsequently removed from the bill, hours after it was originally unveiled.

Hoyer announced during the House floor debate on Tuesday that he plans to bring a separate bill on Iron Dome funding this week.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) also said during a House Rules Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon that she is committed to including additional funding for Israel in the final fiscal 2022 defense appropriations bill.

“The United States must fully live up to our commitments to our friend and our ally Israel,” she said.

DeLauro added that there would be no interruption in funding to the Iron Dome. She said the bill continues funding appropriated for fiscal 2021 for Israeli cooperative programs.

Centrist Democrats expressed frustration with their progressive colleagues for demanding the removal of the Iron Dome funding.

“I’m outraged and dismayed that some of my colleagues object to helping Israel defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition. “America must support our ally Israel.”

Tags Bill Cassidy Debt limit Government shutdown Janet Yellen John Kennedy Mike Johnson Rosa DeLauro Steny Hoyer Stephanie Murphy Steve Scalise
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