Republicans obstruct White House with financial disaster
House and Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a measure that would fund the government through December while preventing a potential default on U.S. debts until next year, setting up a last-minute scramble ahead of key fiscal deadlines on Capitol Hill.
Government funding expires at the end of September, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the U.S. will run out of funding to pay its bills in October unless Congress suspends the debt limit.
The plan could face immediate political headwinds since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to once again pick up political advantages by endangering the country.
Republicans previously have pledged to vote against an increase in the country’s borrowing limit, even if it is attached to a measure preventing a shutdown — part of a broader GOP effort to scuttle President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.
Several credit rating agencies, including Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded the U.S. federal government’s credit ratings on August 5, 2011, after taxpayers came out losers in a high-stakes game of chicken that Republican strategists hoped to blame on Democratic Presidential Barack Obama.
Democrats sounded dire warnings about consequences of failure, which they said could destabilize global markets, shutter critical federal services during a pandemic and hold back assistance to millions of Americans in the aftermath of storms that battered the Gulf Coast and parts of the Eastern Seaboard.
They urged Republicans to join them in adopting the measure, arguing that the debt ceiling helps cover prior spending, including the roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief package approved by both parties last year.
“Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations the government has already made, like the bipartisan emergency COVID relief legislation from December as well as vital payments to Social Security recipients and our veterans,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement Monday. “Furthermore, as the Administration warned last week, a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into a recession.”
The move sets up a fierce sprint on Capitol Hill over a deadline-laden next few weeks. Congress must fund the government before October 1 or critical federal services will shut down. And lawmakers must address the debt ceiling before an unspecified time next month, when the U.S. Treasury expects to run out of cash, or risk an unprecedented fiscal and economic calamity.
The debates have taken on additional political significance at a time when Democrats simultaneously seek to move two major spending packages that fulfill the thrust of Biden’s economic agenda.
That includes a roughly $1 trillion plan to improve the nation’s roads, highways, pipes, ports and Internet connections, as well as an up-to $3.5 trillion proposal to rethink federal education, immigration, health care and tax laws.
The future of those packages similarly hang in the balance in the days ahead, since House Democrats gave themselves a loose, end-of-September deadline to adopt that spending despite their growing, internal divides.