House approves spending bill and debt limit increase over GOP opposition

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WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday passed legislation to keep the government funded until early December, lift the cap on federal loans through the end of 2022 and provide emergency funds to Afghan refugees and natural disaster recovery, and mount a fiscal clash as the Republicans warn they will. block the measure in the Senate.

The bill is urgently needed to avoid a government shutdown when funding ends next week, and a first-ever default when the Treasury Department reaches the limit of its lending authority within weeks. But it has become entangled in partisan politics, with Republicans refusing to raise a debt ceiling at a time when Democrats control Congress and the White House.

By tying the debt cap increase to the spending package, Democrats hoped to pressure Republicans to drop their opposition to raising the debt ceiling, a routine move that would allow the government to meet its obligations. But even with critical funding for their states at stake, no Republicans voted for the legislation.

The bill passed with only Democratic votes in the closely divided House, 220 to 211.

And the prospects for passage into the 50-50 Senate seemed bleak, as Republicans vowed not to vote for the legislation nor allow it to pass in the chamber, where it takes 60 votes to move forward.

The legislation, released just hours before the House vote, would extend government funding through December 3, giving lawmakers more time to negotiate the dozens of annual spending bills, which are otherwise on track to expire when the new bill is passed. fiscal year begins on October 1. The package would also raise $6.3 billion to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States and $28.6 billion to help communities rebuild from hurricanes, wildfires and other recent natural disasters. It would lift the federal debt limit until December 16, 2022.

“Because this bill provides vital support to our families and communities, it also addresses recent emergencies that require federal resources and includes feedback from members on both sides of the aisle,” said Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. , in a speech to the House of Representatives.

Led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, Republicans have been warning for weeks that they had no intention of helping Democrats raise the limit on the Treasury Department’s ability to borrow. While the debt was incurred with the approval of both parties, Mr. McConnell has repeatedly pointed to Democrats’ efforts to get multibillion-dollar legislation into law over the Republican opposition.

But in Tuesday’s comments, Mr. McConnell made a purely political argument for refusing to raise the debt ceiling, saying the party in power should take on the task alone.

“America must never fail — we never have, and we never will,” McConnell said at his weekly news conference. “But whose duty it is to do that changes from time to time, depending on the government the American people have elected. Right now we have a Democratic President, a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate.”

“The debt ceiling will be raised, as it should always be,” he added. “But it will be raised by the Democrats.”

Once the House vote was closed, Mr. McConnell and Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate credit committee, unveiled their own financing legislation, without increase in the debt ceiling.

Democrats, who joined Republicans during the Trump administration to raise the debt ceiling, have argued that the GOP is setting a double standard that threatens to sabotage the economy. If the government defaulted on its debt for the first time, it would trigger a financial crisis, shake confidence in US creditworthiness and shrink the stock market.

Senate Democrats are expected to pass the bill in the coming days, essentially challenging Republicans to vote against. But without the support of 10 Republicans, it would not cross the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Lawmakers and aides have admitted it is likely possible for Democrats, who control both chambers and the White House, to tackle the debt ceiling on their own, using the same fast-paced budget process they use to boost their $3.5 trillion Social Security break net plan on united Republican opposition. That process, known as reconciliation, protects legislation from a filibuster.

But Democratic leaders have rejected that approach, which would be a time-consuming and cumbersome maneuver that could jeopardize their national legislation, which is already at risk amid partisan disputes over price tag and details. Instead, they have argued that Republicans should do their part to protect American creditworthiness and avoid a catastrophic default.

“Both the Senate and House leadership have decided that this is not an option they want to pursue,” Kentucky Democrat and Budget Committee chairman John Yarmuth said on Monday. “I want to raise it to a billion dollars and just be done with it.”

He rejected Mr McConnell’s stance on the federal loan limit, saying, “When he says, ‘The debt ceiling must be reached, but we’re not going to do it,’ to me, is simply the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. of an official.”

Mr. McConnell and other Senate Republicans have said they would support an emergency package that includes emergency aid as long as the debt limit hike is lifted.

“I begged the White House, started about two and a half weeks ago, not to do it, and they’re going to do it anyway,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy. “It tells me they’re not really serious about helping my state.”

But Kennedy said he would likely still vote for the combined package because it provided disaster relief for his state.

The drama surrounding the bill illustrated the extraordinarily delicate task Democratic leaders face in the coming weeks to avert a fiscal disaster and implement both a $1 trillion infrastructure compromise and their far-reaching $3.5 trillion social policy package. . Faced with unwavering Republican opposition to most of their agenda and a wafer-thin majority in both chambers, they must find a way to unite moderate and progressive members to gather the bare minimum of votes needed to pass a bill. approve.

On Tuesday, House Democrats were forced to take $1 billion included in spending legislation for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system after progressives — some of whom have accused Israel of human rights abuses against Palestinians — resisted including it in an emergency spending package.

The decision to jettison it for now infuriated some moderates in their ranks and sparked a flurry of Republican criticism. But Maryland’s Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said he would introduce a bill later in the week to provide that funding under a House Rules suspension.

“That’s what I was for, I’m still for it — we should do it,” said Mr. Hoyer on the floor of the House, adding that with Yair Lapid, Israel’s Foreign Minister, earlier in the day and offered his pledge to ensure the House would be acquitted. Senate Republicans included the provision in their own version of the spending package, which was released late Tuesday.

To help support the resettlement of Afghan refugees, the legislation would allocate billions of dollars to the federal government, including $1.7 billion to help provide emergency housing, English language classes and other aid to refugees. It would also bring in $1.8 billion for the State Department to cover the costs of evacuations and essential aid for refugees.

The bill provides for $2.2 billion for the Pentagon and requires a report on how the funds are being spent and monitoring the treatment and living conditions of refugees at each Department of Defense facility. And it requires the administration to report to Congress on military property, equipment and supplies that were either destroyed, removed from or left in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops.

According to a House Appropriations Committee summary, disaster relief aims to address the damage caused by Hurricanes Ida, Delta, Zeta and Laura, wildfires, droughts, winter storms and other instances of natural destruction.


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