September 29, 2021
Senate Republicans have blocked a spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this week and a federal debt default next month—moving the nation closer to the brink of fiscal crisis as they refused to allow Democrats to lift the limit on federal borrowing, The New York Times reports.
With a Thursday, September 30, deadline looming to fund the government—and the country moving closer to a catastrophic debt-limit breach— the stalemate in the Senate represents another bid by Republicans to undercut President Biden and top Democrats at a critical moment.
Republicans who had voted to raise the debt cap by trillions when their party controlled Washington argued on Monday, September 27, that Democrats must shoulder the entire political burden for doing so now, given that they control the White House and both houses of Congress.
The GOP was calculated to portray Democrats as ineffectual and overreaching at a time when they are already toiling to iron out deep party divisions over a $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate change bill, and to pave the way for a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure measure whose fate is linked to it.
The package that was blocked on Monday, which also included emergency aid to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees and disaster recovery, would keep all government agencies funded through December 3 and increase the debt ceiling through the end of 2022. But the bill fell far short of the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate on Monday.
The vote was 48 to 50 to advance the measure. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was among those voting “no,” a procedural maneuver to allow the bill to be reconsidered at some point. But there were no immediate details about next steps.
The resulting cloud of fiscal uncertainty marked yet another challenge for President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders, who are facing a daunting set of tasks as they press to keep the government funded, scrounge together the votes for the infrastructure bill—also slated for a vote on Thursday—and resolve their disputes over the broader budget plan.
Without passage of the legislation, Biden’s agenda and his party’s fortunes would be in peril, a prospect that Republicans appeared to relish, The Times said.
“We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, repeating a warning he has issued for months. He added, “Bipartisanship is not a light switch—a light switch that Democrats get to flip on when they need to borrow money and switch off when they want to spend money.”
“This isn’t your typical Washington fracas,” Schumer said, adding, “it’s one of the most reckless, one of the most irresponsible votes I have seen taken place in the Senate.”
Research contact: @nytimes