Senate Democrats eye government funding bill without debt hike

Senate Democrats are trying to vote as soon as Wednesday to avert a government shutdown, as they de-link the funding from a fight over the country’s borrowing limit.

Senate leadership is currently checking with all 100 senators to see if anyone would block passage of the stop-gap funding measure, that would not include a suspension of the debt ceiling, as soon as Wednesday.

The bill would fund the government through Dec. 3. That’s the same date as a House-passed bill to fund the government.

But Senate Democrats are dropping language that would suspend the nation’s borrowing limit through 2022, effectively separating the two fights.

The bill also doesn’t include funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, though Democrats started the process on Tuesday night for making a stand-alone bill for the defense funding available for a vote.

The goal would be to pass the short-term spending bill as soon as Wednesday and send it to the House, where Democrats will need to pass it without the debt hike included.

If any senator won’t sign off on speedy passage, that could drag out the discussion for days.

“The goal is to get it by Thursday,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Republicans previously blocked legislation on Monday night that would fund the government until Dec. 3 and suspend the debt ceiling through 2022 because it included the debt ceiling suspension.

But the deadlines Congress is facing on the two issues don’t totally line up, and Democrats have stressed that they won’t want to see a shutdown.

Congress has until the end of the day Thursday to prevent a government shutdown. But they have until Oct. 18 to deal with the debt ceiling.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said earlier Tuesday that Democrats would lay out their path forward on funding the government “very soon.”

“I think very soon we will put down a bill to deal with the shutdown and move forward,” he said.

But if Democrats pass the government funding bill without a debt ceiling increase, that leaves them few options for raising the debt ceiling outside of reconciliation, the budget process they are using to bypass a filibuster on a sweeping social spending bill.

Schumer vowed on Tuesday that raising the debt ceiling through reconciliation was a “non-starter,” but House leadership didn’t close the door when asked about the possibility.

“It is not an alternative not to protect the full faith and credit of the United States. So, we may have to use reconciliation,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said during a press call.

Tags Charles Schumer debt ceiling debt hike Government shutdown Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer Tim Kaine

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