The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)
Congress foresees short-term debt limit fix
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.