The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

Congress foresees short-term debt limit fix

- By Kevin Freking and Josh Boak

WASHINGTON » Republican and Democratic leaders edged back Wednesday from a perilous standoff over lifting the nation’s borrowing cap, with Democratic senators signaling they were receptive to an offer from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell that would allow an emergency extension into December.

McConnell made the offer shortly before Republican­s were prepared to block legislatio­n to suspend the debt limit until December of next year and as President Joe Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that an unpreceden­ted federal default would disrupt government payments to millions of people and throw the nation into recession.

The emerging 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.

A procedural vote — on the longer extension the Republican­s were going to block — was abruptly delayed late Wednesday and the Senate recessed so lawmakers could discuss next steps. Democrats emerged from their meeting more optimistic that a crisis would be averted.

“Basically, I’m glad that Mitch McConnell finally saw the light,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independen­t senator from Vermont. The Republican­s “have finally done the right thing and at least we now have another couple months in order to get a permanent solution.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., added that, assuming final details in the emergency legislatio­n are in order, “for the next three months, we’ll continue to make it clear that we are ready to continue to vote to pay our bills and Republican­s aren’t.”

Unsurprisi­ngly, McConnell portrayed it very differentl­y.

“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislatio­n through reconcilia­tion,” he said.

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 would have to go it alone to raise the debt ceiling and allow the Treasury to renew its borrowing so that the country could meet its financial obligation­s.

Further, McConnell has insisted that Democrats use the same cumbersome legislativ­e process called reconcilia­tion that they used to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and have been employing to try and 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 long-term 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 shortterm debt limit extension.

While he continued to blame Democrats, his offer will also allow Republican­s to avoid the condemnati­on they would have gotten from some quarters for causing a financial crisis.

Earlier 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.

 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is surrounded by journalist­s as he walks to the Senate Chamber for a vote as Democrats look for a way to lift the debt limit without Republican votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 6.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is surrounded by journalist­s as he walks to the Senate Chamber for a vote as Democrats look for a way to lift the debt limit without Republican votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 6.

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