House passes increase in spending bill and debt limit over GOP opposition

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WASHINGTON – The House on Tuesday approved legislation to maintain government funding until early December, lift the limit on federal borrowing until the end of 2022, and provide emergency funds to Afghan refugees and the disaster recovery, setting up a budget showdown as Republicans warn they will block the measure in the Senate.

The bill is urgently needed to prevent a government shutdown when funding expires next week, and a very first default when the Treasury Department reaches its borrowing limit within weeks. But he has become trapped in partisan politics, with Republicans refusing to allow an increase in the debt ceiling at a time when Democrats control Congress and the White House.

By linking the increased debt ceiling to the spending program, Democrats had hoped to pressure Republicans to drop their opposition to raising the debt ceiling, a routine step that keeps the government on track. obligations. But even with crucial funding for their states at stake, no Republican voted for the legislation.

The bill passed with only Democratic votes in the heavily divided House, 220 to 211.

And prospects of moving to the Senate at 50-50 seemed dim, as Republicans vowed they would neither vote for the legislation nor allow him to move forward in the chamber, where 60 votes are needed to move forward. .

The legislation, released just hours before the House vote, would extend government funding until December 3, giving lawmakers more time to negotiate the dozen annual spending bills, which are otherwise on the way to being passed. expires when the new fiscal year begins on October 1. The package would also provide $ 6.3 billion to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States and $ 28.6 billion to help communities rebuild after hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. recent. It would lift the federal debt limit until December 16, 2022.

“As this bill provides essential support to our families and communities, it also addresses recent emergencies that require federal resources and incorporates feedback from members on both sides of the aisle,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, in a speech in the House.

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Led by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, Republicans have warned for weeks that they have no intention of helping Democrats increase the Treasury Department’s borrowing capacity limit. While the debt was contracted with the approval of both parties, Mr McConnell has repeatedly highlighted Democrats’ efforts to pass multibillion-dollar legislation against the Republican opposition.

But in remarks Tuesday, Mr McConnell made a purely political argument for refusing to support raising the debt ceiling, saying the ruling party should take on the task alone.

“America must never fail – we never did and we never will,” McConnell said at his weekly press conference. “But whose obligation is to do that changes from time to time, depending on which government the American people have elected. Right now we have a Democratic President, a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate.”

“The debt ceiling will be raised, as it should always be,” he added. “But he will be lifted by the Democrats.”

As soon as the House vote ended, Mr. McConnell and Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, unveiled their own fundraising legislation, with no increase in the amount. debt ceiling.

Democrats, who joined Republicans under the Trump administration in raising the debt ceiling, argued the GOP is setting a double standard that threatens to sabotage the economy. If the government defaulted on its debt for the first time, it would trigger a financial crisis, shaking confidence in US credit and deepening the stock market.

Senate Democrats are expected to pass the bill in the coming days, essentially daring Republicans to vote against it. But without 10 Republicans to back it up, he wouldn’t exceed the 60-vote threshold of filibuster.

Lawmakers and their aides have admitted that it’s likely possible for Democrats, who control both chambers and the White House, to tackle the debt ceiling on their own, using the same fast-track budget process they use to bolster their social security by $ 3.5 trillion. clear shot of the unified Republican opposition. This process, known as reconciliation, protects legislation against systematic obstruction.

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But Democratic leaders have rejected the approach, which would be a long and delicate maneuver that could jeopardize their renowned national legislation, already under threat amid internal party wrangling over its price and details. Instead, they argued that Republicans should do their part to protect American credit and avoid catastrophic default.

“The leaders of the Senate and the House decided that this was not an option they wanted to pursue,” Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the budget committee, said Monday. “I want to take it to a billion dollars and be done with it.”

He lambasted Mr McConnell’s stance on the federal borrowing limit, saying: “For him to say, ‘The debt ceiling must be done, but we are not going to do it’ is for me the statement. the most ridiculous I have ever heard of a public official.

Mr McConnell and other Senate Republicans have said they will support an interim spending program with emergency relief, as long as the debt ceiling increase is lifted.

“I begged the White House about two and a half weeks ago not to do it, and they are going to do it anyway,” said Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana. “It tells me that they are not really serious about helping my condition.”

But Mr Kennedy said he would likely vote for the combined package again, as it provided disaster relief to his state.

The drama surrounding the bill has illustrated the extremely delicate task that Democratic leaders will face in the coming weeks to avert fiscal disaster and embrace both a $ 1,000 billion infrastructure compromise and their sweeping agenda. $ 3.5 trillion in social policy. Faced with steadfast Republican opposition to most of their platform and very slim majorities in both houses, they must find a way to unite moderate and progressive members to concoct the bare minimum of votes necessary to pass a bill. .

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On Tuesday, House Democrats were forced to withdraw $ 1 billion that had been included in spending legislation for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, after progressives – some of whom accused Israel of rights violations humans against Palestinians – have hesitated to include it in an emergency. spending package.

The decision to dump him for now infuriated some moderates in their ranks and sparked a wave of Republican criticism. But Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said he would introduce a bill to provide that funding later in the week as part of a suspension of House rules.

“I was for it, I’m still for this – we should do it,” Mr Hoyer said on the floor of the House, adding that he had spoken to Yair Lapid, Israeli Foreign Minister, earlier today and pledged to keep the House clear.

To help support the resettlement of Afghan refugees, the law would distribute billions of dollars across the federal government, including $ 1.7 billion to help provide emergency housing, English classes and other forms of support for refugees. It would also provide $ 1.8 billion to the State Department to cover the cost of evacuations and essential assistance to refugees.

The bill provides $ 2.2 billion for the Pentagon and requires a report on how funds are spent and the monitoring of the treatment and living conditions of refugees at all Department of Defense facilities. And that requires the administration to report to Congress on military property, equipment, and supplies that were either destroyed, removed, or left in Afghanistan after US troops withdrew.

Disaster assistance, according to a summary provided by the House Appropriations Committee, is intended to address damage from Hurricanes Ida, Delta, Zeta and Laura, wildfires, droughts, winter storms and other cases of natural devastation.