Baltimore Sun

House sends debt limit hike to Biden, staving off default

- By Kevin Freking

WASHINGTON — Members of the House on Tuesday pushed through a short-term increase to the nation’s debt limit, ensuring the federal government can continue fully paying its bills into December and temporaril­y averting an unpreceden­ted default that would have decimated the economy.

The $480 billion increase in the country’s borrowing ceiling cleared the Senate last week on a party-line vote. The House approved it swiftly so President Joe Biden can sign it into law this week. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned that steps to stave off a default on the country’s debts would be exhausted by Monday, and from that point, the department would soon be unable to fully meet the government’s financial obligation­s.

A default would have fallout on global financial markets built upon the safety of U.S. government debt. Routine government payments to Social Security beneficiar­ies, disabled veterans and active-duty military personnel would also be called into question.

The relief provided by passage of the legislatio­n will only be temporary, forcing Congress to revisit the issue in December — a time when lawmakers will also be laboring to complete federal spending bills and avoid a damaging government shutdown. The yearend backlog raises risks for both parties and threatens a tumultuous close to Biden’s first year in office.

“I’m glad that this at least allows us to prevent a totally self-made and utterly preventabl­e economic catastroph­e as we work on a longer-term plan,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Republican­s signaled the next debt limit debate won’t be any easier and warned Democrats not to expect their help.

“Unless and until Democrats give up on their dream of a big-government, socialist America, Republican­s cannot and will not support raising the debt limit and help them pave the superhighw­ay to a great entitlemen­t society,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Procedural­ly, the House took a single vote Tuesday that had the effect of passing the Senate bill. The measure passed by a partyline vote of 219-206.

The present standoff over the debt ceiling eased when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky agreed to help pass the short-term increase. But he insists he won’t do so again.

In a letter sent Friday to Biden, McConnell said Democrats will have to handle the next debt-limit increase on their own using the same process they have tried to use to pass Biden’s massive social spending and environmen­t plan. Reconcilia­tion

allows legislatio­n to pass the Senate with 51 votes rather than the 60 that’s typically required. In the 50-50 split Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris gives Democrats the majority with her tiebreakin­g vote.

Lawmakers from both parties have used the debt ceiling votes as leverage for other priorities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., threatened to vote against raising the debt ceiling when President Donald Trump was in office, saying she had no intention of supporting lifting the debt ceiling to enable Republican­s to give another tax break to the rich. And Republican­s in 2011 managed to coerce President Barack Obama into accepting about $2 trillion in deficit cuts as a condition for increasing the debt limit — though lawmakers later rolled some cuts back.

Pelosi told reporters Tuesday that over the years Republican­s and Democrats have voted against lifting the debt ceiling, “but never to the extent of jeopardizi­ng it.”

 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP ?? House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., convenes a panel Tuesday to prepare the final version of the bill to increase the debt limit.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., convenes a panel Tuesday to prepare the final version of the bill to increase the debt limit.

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