(NEW YORK) — House Democrats are plowing ahead to vote on a bill Tuesday that will fund the government through Dec. 3, provide billions in emergency disaster relief and billions more to support Afghan evacuees — but it is expected to be blocked by Senate Republicans.
The federal government faces a looming shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, leaving lawmakers with little time to finagle a compromise over a suspension of the debt limit, which Democrats have attached to the must-pass spending bill.
Senate Republicans say they oppose suspending the debt limit because of additional spending measures Democrats are crafting — even though doing so would pay for previous expenditures. But Senate Democrats worked with Republicans under the Trump administration to raise the debt limit on multiple occasions and say it’s a bipartisan responsibility.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit, the U.S. could default on its debt sometime in October, potentially triggering an “economic catastrophe.”
Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said for weeks they will oppose any measure that raises the debt ceiling, insisting that Democrats can do it alone given their control over all three branches of government.
“Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate Republicans’ help with raising the debt limit. I’ve explained this clearly and consistently for over two months,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.
But Democrats are pressing ahead and remain optimistic about the bill’s prospects, knowing full well the challenge they face in getting Republicans on board.
“It is our hope that Senate Republicans will also do the right thing and stop playing politics around the debt limit,” House Democratic caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries said at a press conference Tuesday.
Jeffries indicated that at least a handful of Republicans have publicly expressed they will end up voting for the bill. Democrats need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to back the bill.
“Three times – during the administration of the former president – three times House Democrats cooperated in raising the debt ceiling,” Jeffries said.
“Now all of a sudden, they want to jam up the American people and the American economy and our full faith and credit, because they’re playing politics?” Jeffries said of Republicans in the Senate.
“Senate Republicans should be hearing from their friends in the big banks and big business, as to how catastrophic a default on our debt would be for industry, for commerce, for the economy and most importantly for the American people,” Jeffries added.
Without GOP support, it’s unclear how Democrats will plan to tackle the issue of raising or suspending the debt limit alone.
“The debt limit is a shared responsibility, and I urge Congress to come together, in that spirit, on a bipartisan basis as it has in the past to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to members over the weekend.
The short-term funding bill unveiled on Tuesday extends funding through Dec. 3 for all vital federal agencies, including health, housing, education and public safety programs.
“It is critical that Congress swiftly pass this legislation to support critical education, health, housing and public safety programs and provide emergency help for disaster survivors and Afghan evacuees,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement Tuesday.
The bill also includes $28.6 billion in emergency disaster relief to address recent natural disasters, including multiple hurricanes and wildfires, severe droughts and winter storms in 2021 and prior years.
Another $6.3 billion would support Afghan evacuees, including funding to temporarily house evacuees at American facilities and in foreign countries, provide necessary security screenings and ultimately resettle eligible evacuees in the United States. The legislation also includes funding to provide humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees in neighboring countries.
The legislation suspends the debt limit through December 2022.
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