Senate leaders sprint toward debt limit finish line
Senate leaders are scrambling to cut a deal to vote quickly on the debt bill, hoping to finish work before the weekend and well before the June 5 default deadline.
There’s a growing feeling that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell can work something out among all 100 senators, a prerequisite to speed up a vote. Without that agreement, the Senate’s consideration of the budget and debt ceiling deal would push well into next week.
The House’s whopping 314-117 vote to pass the debt limit deal created a sense of inevitability in the Senate. Despite defections among liberal and conservative senators, the chamber is likely to put up similarly solid numbers in support of the deal, easily clearing the supermajority requirement.
Timing is still the main uncertainty. Schumer said taking too long would prompt a “dangerous risk” of default or a credit downgrade. He said there is “no good reason” to rub against the Monday deadline.
“The Senate will stay in session until we send the bill avoiding default to President Biden’s desk. We will keep working until the job is done. Time is a luxury the Senate does not have if we want to prevent default,” Schumer said. “I hope we see nothing even approaching brinkmanship.”
There are a number of senators demanding amendments, mostly on the GOP side, though Republicans also say they don’t need to drag the bill out if they get their votes. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are among those looking for amendment votes, including on spending cuts and on the Biden administration’s regulatory powers.
And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other defense hawks are unhappy with the bill’s cap on Pentagon funding, concerned that the relatively paltry increase could affect national security and the war in Ukraine. McConnell himself expressed disappointment that Republicans didn’t achieve a higher defense funding number even as he extolled the deal as a “promising step towards fiscal sanity.”
“The coming votes are an important step in the right direction. We cannot neglect our fundamental obligation to address the nation’s most pressing national security challenges,” McConnell said.
Without unanimous agreement on a voting and amendment deal, the Senate won’t be able to begin voting on the legislation until Saturday, which could delay final passage until next week.
The legislation would raise the debt ceiling through 2024, install two years of budget caps, increase some work requirements on government benefits, rescind some IRS funding from Democrats’ party-line legislation last year and approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia into Virginia. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is not happy that the bill would force approval of that project, and is hoping for an amendment vote of his own that would strip out the pipeline provision.
Schumer has so far been noncommittal about which amendments will get votes, only saying that the Senate cannot make changes to the House bill at this late hour. Doing so would almost surely result in blowing through the Treasury Department’s Monday deadline.
And every day could matter given the Treasury’s low coffers and the outside risk of damaging the country’s credit rating. In 2011 Standard & Poor’s downgraded the United States’s rating — after legislation raising the debt ceiling passed Congress.
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Author: By Burgess Everett