The House on Tuesday passed the short-term fix to extend the debt ceiling through early December by $480 billion, averting a catastrophic economic disaster, but briefly punts the issue temporarily as it sets up another Congress showdown in just eight short weeks.
The measure in the House was adopted through a procedural rule along party lines in a vote of 219-206. Every 206 House Republicans lined up in voting against the measure, while all 219 Democrats voted in favor. The debt-limit measure was not voted as a standalone measure as the House ahead of the vote packaged it as part of a procedural rule or “deem and pass” approval, a complex move that doesn’t put members on record for individual votes.
President Biden is expected to sign the measure into law this week once it heads to his desk, just before the Oct. 18 dooming deadline.
Nearly 168 House members on both sides of the aisles voted by proxy Tuesday evening, with 110 members filed proxy voting letters just on Tuesday alone in designating another member of their choosing to cast their vote on their behalf. The practice began last year amid the pandemic with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) extending to the use of proxy voting earlier this year since first implemented in May 2020, but it is set to expire next month.
The Senate approved the measure last week after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered the short-term fix to extend the nation’s debt limit through a new deadline of Dec. 3, coincidentally on the same day the stopgap measure to fund the government is also set to expire. It would also raise the statutory debt ceiling by $480 billion, the amount the Treasury Department would need to obligate its spending limit through the first week of December.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Democrats struck a deal with McConnell just 24 hours after the Republican leader offered the deal. It set up the Senate to first take up a procedural vote that needed 60 votes to prevent a filibuster and another for the final passage that only required a simple majority. Both votes were expedited Thursday evening, with 11 GOP Senators helped Democrats clear an initial procedural vote with the final vote on the bill was 50-48 along party lines.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has repeatedly warned that if Congress failed to act by Oct. 18 deadline, the U.S. would be at risk of a default that could “result in catastrophe” impact on the economy and financial markets.
Pelosi, earlier during her weekly news conference, gave the nod to legislation from Democratic Reps. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania and John Yarmuth of Kentucky that would overhaul the debt limit and transfer the authority with lifting the limit cap to the Treasury secretary rather than requiring a debate or a vote from Congress on the issue.
“I think it has merit,” Pelosi said, adding that Congress would be able to vote to overrule such a move.
For weeks, McConnell has repeatedly said that Democrats should address the debt limit without any help from Republicans, insisting that the majority party use the reconciliation process. It is the same fast-track budget process Democrats are planning to use for their massive trillion-dollar spending measures in order to bypass the 60-vote threshold through a simple majority vote.
McConnell sent a letter following the Senate vote on Friday warned Biden that he “will not be a party to any future effort” to resolve the debt ceiling problem,
“Your lieutenants on Capitol Hill now have the time they claimed they lacked to address the debt ceiling through standalone reconciliation and all the tools to do it,” McConnell said in the letter to Biden. “They cannot invent another crisis and ask for my help.”