Oroville Mercury-Register

Default crisis dodged — for now — with Dem-GOP debt accord

- By Kevin Freking, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe

WASHINGTON » Senate leaders announced an agreement Thursday to extend the government’s borrowing authority into December, temporaril­y averting an unpreceden­ted federal default that experts say would devastate the economy.

“Our hope is to get this done as soon as today,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared. Republican leader Mitch McConnell, whose party has been blocking the debt limit extension, said, “The Senate is moving forward.”

The first crucial vote on the measure was cleared Thursday night as Republican leaders put up the votes needed to advance it. Passage through the Senate was expected soon after.

In their agreement, the Republican and Democratic leaders edged back from a perilous standoff over lifting the nation’s borrowing cap, with Democratic senators accepting an offer from McConnell.

McConnell made the GOP offer a day earlier, just before his Republican­s were prepared to block longerterm legislatio­n to suspend the debt limit and as President Joe Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that a default would disrupt government payments to millions of people and throw the nation into recession.

Biden supports move

The White House signaled the president’s support, with principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issuing a statement that the president would sign a bill to raise the debt limit when it passed Congress.

Earlier, she called the short-term deal a “positive step,” even as she assailed Republican­s for blocking Democratic efforts.

“It gives us some breathing room from the catastroph­ic default we were approachin­g because of Sen. McConnell’s decision to play politics with our economy,” she told reporters.

Wall Street rallied modestly on the news.

The agreement sets the stage for a sequel of sorts in December, when Congress will again face pressing deadlines to fund the government and raise the debt limit before heading home for the holidays.

The agreement will allow for raising the debt ceiling by about $480 billion, according to a Senate aide familiar with the negotiatio­ns who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them. That is the level that the Treasury Department has said is needed to get to Dec. 3.

“Basically, I’m glad that Mitch McConnell finally saw the light,” Bernie Sanders, the independen­t senator from Vermont, said late Wednesday.

McConnell portrayed it differentl­y.

“The pathway our Democratic colleagues have accepted will spare the American people any near-term crisis, while definitive­ly resolving the majority’s excuse that they lacked time to address the debt limit through (reconcilia­tion),” McConnell said Thursday. “Now there will be no question: They’ll have plenty of time.”


Congress has just days to act before the Oct. 18 deadline when the Treasury Department has warned it would quickly run short of funds to handle the nation’s already accrued debt load.

McConnell and Senate Republican­s have insisted that Democrats go it alone to raise the debt ceiling. Further, McConnell has insisted that Democrats use the same cumbersome legislativ­e process called reconcilia­tion that they used to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and have been employing to try to pass Biden’s $3.5 trillion measure to boost safety net, health and environmen­tal programs.

McConnell said in his offer Wednesday that Republican­s would still insist that Democrats use the reconcilia­tion process for a longterm debt limit extension. However, he said Republican­s are willing to “assist in expediting” that process, and in the meantime Democrats may use the normal legislativ­e process to pass a short-term debt limit extension with a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, RAlaska, was among those voting to advance the bill.

“I’m not willing to let this train go off the cliff,” she said.

On Wednesday, Biden enlisted top business leaders to push for immediatel­y suspending the debt limit, saying the approachin­g deadline created the risk of a historic default that would be like a “meteor” that could crush the economy and financial markets.

 ?? ALEX BRANDON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.
ALEX BRANDON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.

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