For Democrats, it was a crucial step towards completing a series of bills to pass this month, after Republicans and Democrats reached agreement on annual policy legislation. defense earlier this week, and on the heels of passing an interim spending measure to fund government until mid-February. Democrats were eager to focus all of their attention on bodybuilding through Mr Biden’s branded home policy legislation ahead of Christmas, though the prospects for doing so were bleak.
While Democrats have not indicated by how much they will raise the borrowing cap, they are expected to try to delay another budget stalemate until after next year’s midterm elections. A Treasury estimate suggested they would need to increase it to $ 2.5 trillion to cover that period, according to a person familiar with preliminary accounting who disclosed it on condition of anonymity.
Legislative contortions were necessary because of Republicans’ intransigence on the debt ceiling. As Democrats use the fast-track budget reconciliation process to push Mr. Biden’s $ 2.2 trillion climate, tax and social spending bill over their opposition, Republicans had demanded Democrats use the same maneuver to reduce the debt limit.
Democrats opposed, arguing that both sides were responsible for raising the borrowing limit to reflect spending approved and incurred under the Republican and Democratic administrations. Reconciliation, they added, would be an unnecessarily complex and time-consuming way to do it.
In October, Mr McConnell gave in temporarily, prompting 10 of his colleagues to join him in breaking his own party’s filibuster on a short-term increase in the debt limit, which was then passed with only Democratic votes. But he warned in a scathing letter to Mr Biden that he wouldn’t do it again. Two Republicans who backed the measure in October, Senators Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, withheld their votes Thursday.
“They could do it through reconciliation without any Republican support,” Rounds told reporters ahead of the vote. “We bailed them out by calling the question last time to give them the opportunity to do so, and yet they seem to have just sat back and expect us to provide them with special opportunities again.”
Mr McConnell and Mr Schumer began quietly discussing alternatives in November, including the possibility of adding a debt limit increase to the annual Defense Policy Bill, the latest piece of legislation to pass. before Congress before the end of the year.