Democrats to Pair Spending Bill With Raising Debt Ceiling, Pressuring G.O.P.

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The approach essentially dares Republicans to follow through on their threats to oppose raising the debt limit, coupled with urgently needed federal spending.

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WASHINGTON — Top congressional Democrats announced Monday that they would tackle a measure to lift the federal borrowing limit through the end of 2022 on a bill to keep the government funded through December, with Republicans stepping up an ongoing showdown. Those who have vowed to oppose the law. a financial disaster.

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The House is expected to take up the bill earlier this week, as Democrats work on their $3.5 trillion economic package, including avoiding a government shutdown in 10 days and a possible default on the national debt within weeks. is needed.

But Republicans have warned repeatedly that they are unwilling to support raising the debt limit, leaving the fate of both measures in doubt. Combining the two, Democratic leaders hope to drop their opposition on Republicans and allow them to pass legislation that is expected to cover urgently needed spending, including disaster relief, to help their states.

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“Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations already made by the government, such as the bipartisan emergency COVID relief law from December, as well as significant payments to Social Security recipients and our veterans,” the top two Democrats, California President Nancy Pelosi and New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced their plan in a joint statement. “Moreover, as the administration warned last week, a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into recession.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican and minority leader of Kentucky, has argued for weeks that funding federal spending is the responsibility of the ruling party, especially as Democrats want to maneuver trillions of dollars in spending around a unified Republican opposition.

“Democrats want to build a partisan future without our input, so Democrats won’t have bipartisan access to their purely partisan spending,” McConnell announced on the Senate floor, adding that Republicans would retain the government. Will support a stand-alone bill to keep to open. “The Democrats themselves are fully capable of taking this step.”

But President Donald J. The debt-limit increase is needed to pay off the trillions of dollars in debt made by lawmakers on both sides, including Trump. Democrats, who joined Republicans in raising the limit during the Trump administration, argue that the GOP should reciprocate under President Biden so that the government does not default on its obligations.

“This is a bipartisan responsibility, as it was under my predecessor,” Mr Biden said in a statement of support for the plan on Twitter. “Blocking it would be unforgivable.”

In their statement, Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer stressed the need for payment of the $900 billion pandemic relief bill, which became law in the final weeks of the Trump administration with bipartisan support including Mr McConnell and moderate Republicans. The pair also said that the legislation, which was not made public until Monday evening, would also include emergency funding to resettle refugees from Afghanistan and the devastation caused by hurricanes in Louisiana and wildfires in the West in recent months. including addressing the onslaught of natural disasters.

“What Republicans are doing is nothing short of a food and a dash of historic proportions,” Mr Schumer said in a speech on Monday. “This is not just another partisan fight. It is about surviving the crisis that has undone all the progress our country has made to heal itself from the Covid crisis.”

At least one Republican, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, said Monday that he was willing to support the measure because of disaster aid.

“I would probably vote yes, but it’s not going to pass because there won’t be 10 Republican votes,” he said. “But for disaster relief, no, oh no, I won’t vote for it. This is a manufactured crisis.”

Failure to pass the law could spell a disaster, with just 10 days before government funding ends. If MPs fail to approve an increase in the loan limit in the coming weeks, the government could default on its debt for the first time. In turn, this could lead to a financial crisis, or at least a crisis of trust in the credibility and governance of the United States.

Republicans argue that Democrats can lift the debt limit on their own, given that they can essentially reopen the budget blueprint they use to advance Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic package. are doing. But adding an increase to the debt limit would be a difficult and politically difficult task, and Democrats have rejected the suggestion.

“I personally would like to see a clean vote on a debt limit so that Republicans really only have to go on record on that vote and not mix it with a funding measure,” said Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Speaker of the House budget. The committee is speaking on “Fox News Sunday”. “But ultimately, the most important thing is to accomplish both.”

Even as they seek the cooperation of Republicans, Democratic leaders have indicated for weeks that they are unwilling to make concessions in exchange for their votes on debt ceiling increases. MPs were still negotiating details of relief for Afghan refugees and natural disasters, as well as the extension of several programs at the end of the fiscal year ending September 30.

Negotiations on more than a dozen annual spending bills have also stalled, with lawmakers yet to agree on the level of total spending and the details of the bills. But Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer said extending government funding through December “will give that bipartisan, bicameral process a fair amount of time to complete.”

The standoff over basic congressional responsibilities comes as Democrats wrestle with intraparty divisions over the size and details of the $3.5 trillion package. They are using a budget process known as reconciliation to move beyond a Republican filibuster, but given their thin margin of control, they can spare three votes in the House and pass it by a simple majority. should remain united in the Senate. .

Many thorny issues remain. The top Senate rule enforcer advised Democrats on Sunday that his proposal to include a substantial legalization initiative for millions of undocumented immigrants violated strict reconciliation rules, forcing them to seek alternatives.

Over moderate objections, moderate Democrats, including Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, are pushing to reduce spending. And House and Senate leaders need to reconcile a range of policy differences, including a key promise to reduce the cost of the package, health care provisions and prescription drugs.

And to garner enough support from liberal and conservative Democrats to begin work on a much larger, partisan package, Ms Pelosi agreed to vote on September 27 on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate. But with a week to go before that vote, moderate Democrats are warning they will hold off on passing that law until the $3.5 trillion package is completed.

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