McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Tuesday night offered a competing short-term government funding bill, just as House Democrats passed a stopgap measure that suspends the country’s borrowing limit.
The bill from McConnell and Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, does not include a debt ceiling suspension, reflecting the GOP push to divorce government funding from the looming brawl over the nation’s borrowing limit. The House-passed bill would suspend the debt ceiling, which kicked back in on Aug. 1, through 2022.
The Senate GOP bill also includes funding for supporting the Iron Dome, Israel’s air defense system. House Democrats stripped out a provision on Tuesday from their bill that would have provided $1 billion for the Iron Dome. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is planning to hold a stand-alone vote on the funding this week.
“I am pleased to introduce a package with Leader McConnell that would extend government funding, provide much-needed disaster relief, and deliver targeted Afghan assistance. Republicans and Democrats have undergone bipartisan, bicameral negotiations for weeks to keep the government open and provide emergency aid. This bill reflects those urgent priorities,” Shelby said in a statement.
“Importantly, our legislation includes funding for the Iron Dome, making good on our commitment to a historic and significant ally, and removes the Democrats’ ill-conceived language on the debt limit. Members on both sides of the aisle can support this measure, and I urge them to do so with haste,” he added.
The GOP proposal comes as Democrats are moving forward with their plan to try to suspend the country’s borrowing limit as part of the short-term government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution.
Congress has until the end of the month to pass a government funding measure and avoid a shutdown. Both Democrats and the GOP proposal would keep the government funded through Dec. 3.
When the country will face a debt default is less certain. Congress previously voted in 2019, under then-President Trump, to suspend the debt ceiling until Aug. 1. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using so-called extraordinary measures to keep the government solvent.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned congressional leaders that the debt ceiling will need to be raised in October.
Senate Republicans are expected to block the House bill, which also includes disaster assistance and Afghan refugee resettlement funds, when it comes to the Senate floor next week.
Democrats will need 10 GOP votes to pass the bill. No GOP senator has committed to voting yes. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), whose home state has been devastated by recent hurricanes, has come the closest, telling reporters that he’ll “probably” vote yes.
The country has never defaulted on its debt, but what comes after that failed vote is in limbo.
Senate Republicans are trying to get Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own as part of the $3.5 trillion spending package they are trying to pass under budget reconciliation, which allows them to bypass the filibuster in the Senate.
Democrats, so far, are refusing to do that and saying the vote should be bipartisan, pointing back to their support for debt ceiling suspensions under Trump.
But McConnell, speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday, reiterated that Republicans were willing to support a short-term government funding bill only if it had the Iron Dome funding and didn’t address the debt ceiling.
“We’re prepared to support a continuing resolution with assistance for Louisiana, with additional funds to replenish Iron Dome,” McConnell said.
“What we’re not prepared to do is to relieve the Democratic president, Democratic House, Democratic Senate from their governing obligation to address the debt ceiling,” he added.