With a government shutdown looming over funding for the next fiscal year, Democrats have been attempting to pass a continuing resolution (CR) which would stave off the deadline until December, 2021. The GOP refused to support the Democrat-proposed resolution and debt ceiling suspension, just as they said they would. Now, it’s back to the drawing board for those hoping to avoid a shutdown beginning October 1. House Democrats, however, have a new plan: Split this into two – one bill that funds the government temporarily and another that suspends the debt limit. Will it work? Predictably, the bill quickly cleared the House. The Senate, of course, may well be a different story entirely.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday afternoon that the Senate would be voting on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded without an increase in the debt limit. This foreshadowed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) own plan of splitting the two issues, which might make it a bit easier to fund the government. For many fiscal conservatives, that may have felt like a victory – and it may yet prove to be one. But not long after his statement, the House voted 219-212, not to fund the government, but to suspend the debt limit through December 16, 2022. That bill now moves to the Senate, where it will almost certainly fail.
On December 17, 2022 – after a year of unlimited borrowing – the debt ceiling would reset to accommodate the new dollar amount, should this bill become law. During the House vote, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Jared Golden (D-ME) crossed the aisle to oppose the bill along with the GOP, and one Republican, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted with the Democrats.
What chance does this stand in the Senate? Presumably, little to none. Sen. Schumer had said, earlier in the day, that a CR without any debt limit modifications might work out better and that, once the government was funded, they would get back to the debt ceiling issue. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear that the GOP wasn’t on board. “There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible,” he said. If Republicans won’t help Schumer fund the government without a debt ceiling suspension and increase, why would House Democrats think the plan to remove the borrowing limit for a year would have even a remote chance of passing the Senate? That was the primary component the GOP took issue with in the last attempt.
Even if the Senate does pass its own continuing resolution that doesn’t include a debt limit increase, it would still have to clear the House as well. Pelosi’s plan might make one believe there’s a light at the end of the legislative tunnel, but the fact that House Democrats prioritized the debt limit bill rather than the CR does not bode well. Will they hold the CR hostage, demanding the debt limit be removed first, as they did with the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the more progressive $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act? Whatever Congress plans to do, time is running out. The government funding dries up October 1, and by October 18, the U.S. could hit that ceiling and default on the national debt for the first time in the history of the country.
~ Read more from James Fite.