Democratic leaders are hoping to vote on Tuesday on legislation to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month and suspend the nation's borrowing limit, setting up a showdown with Republicans who insist Democrats should act alone to stave off a looming debt crisis.
Government funding is set to expire on September 30, but the stop-gap bill the House will take up would extend funding and keep the government open through December 3. In addition, the measure includes a debt limit suspension through December 16, 2022. It would also provide $28.6 billion in disaster relief funding and $6.3 billion to assist Afghanistan evacuees.
The Democratic-controlled House is expected to pass the measure, but it faced a last minute snag as a group of progressives have told leadership that they will not vote for the bill if it includes $1 billion in funding for Israel's Iron Dome.
Once it passes out of the House, the bill will face an uphill battle in the Senate where 10 Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to overcome a filibuster. By attaching the debt limit suspension to the must-pass funding bill, Democrats are essentially daring Republicans to vote no and spark a shutdown.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday that the plan is to pass the bill in the coming hours, to give the Senate time to try and work out their differences and pass the bill as is. Hoyer left the door open on what measures the House would take if the Senate is not able to pass what the House sends over before the government runs out of funding next week.
"My expectation is that we will vote on it today," Hoyer said. "We want to send it over to the Senate, and give the Senate an opportunity to consider it, figure out what they're going to do and they may send it back to us, at which point in time we will have to make a determination, but we want to pass that bill."
Democrats insist that lawmakers must act on a bipartisan basis to address the debt limit and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Monday that the issue would be paired with the must-pass funding bill.
"This week, the House of Representatives will pass legislation to fund the government through December of this year to avoid a needless government shutdown that would harm American families and our economic recovery before the September 30th deadline," the congressional Democratic leaders said. "The legislation to avoid a government shutdown will also include a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022 to once again meet our obligations and protect the full faith and credit of the United States."
The clock is ticking to address the debt limit. Congress may only have until mid-October to act before the federal government can no longer pay its bills. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Sunday, warning that if the US defaults on its debt, it "could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil."
It's not yet clear what Democrats' plan B would be if the effort to avert a shutdown and suspend the debt limit run aground in the Senate, as it appears is on track to happen.
If Senate Republicans block the stop-gap funding measure over the debt limit, there could still be enough time to strip the debt limit measure out and pass a stand-alone spending bill to avoid a shutdown. But the vote would take place perilously close to the shutdown deadline and would likely require cooperation on both sides to process a quick Senate vote. It also would leave the debt ceiling problem unresolved, setting up yet another flashpoint issue to be dealt with by Congress in the weeks to come.
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