U.S. House passes bill to speed up debt ceiling increase

The US Capitol building is seen in Washington, United States, on November 16, 2021. REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz / File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (Reuters) – The United States House of Representatives on Tuesday evening approved a measure allowing Congress to speed up legislation raising the federal government’s debt limit and avoid a possible unprecedented default.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure, which prevents the use of stall tactics, on Thursday.

That would speed the way for Congress to consider separate legislation to increase the current $ 28.9 trillion limit on federal borrowing authority to a level yet to be determined.

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The House voted 222-212 in favor of the measure designed to speed up approval of an increase in the often laborious Senate debt ceiling. Only one Republican supported him.

“Raising the debt ceiling will prevent us from defaulting on debt we already owe. These are investments that Congress previously approved,” Democratic Representative Steven Horsford said during the House debate.

Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned of dire consequences without swift congressional action.

“We need to tackle the debt ceiling to avoid an unnecessary and catastrophic decline of trillions of dollars in GDP and a devastating downgrade in our credit rating,” Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a statement.

But House Republicans have opposed any action, knowing Democrats intended to shoulder the burden themselves as part of a deal privately negotiated by both sides.

“Make no mistake about it. This debt ceiling is being lifted to pay trillions in unnecessary socialist spending,” Republican Representative Kevin Brady said.

It was in part a reference to President Joe Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion “Build Better” national investment bill that Democrats hope to pass in the Senate this month.

Democrats say the increase in borrowing power is needed in large part to cover the cost of tax cuts and spending programs during the administration of former Republican President Donald Trump, which Republicans in Congress have supported.

“BEST INTEREST OF THE COUNTRY”

Normally, many bills need the support of at least 60 senators to overcome procedural hurdles. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has sent a clear message that his party will help facilitate an increase in the debt ceiling, even if its members aim to vote against the bill itself implementing it.

“It is in the best interest of the country to avoid default,” McConnell told reporters, adding: “We will vote on this Thursday,” as he expressed confidence in its passage.

Congress is expected to end the long-standing struggle between Democrats and Republicans by December 15, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for appeasement of financial markets and guarantees there would be no default – an event that would have catastrophic economic consequences.

The increase in the debt limit, if passed, should provide the Treasury with sufficient borrowing power until the congressional election next November.

Tuesday’s breakthrough strategy, negotiated by Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress after months of internal political wrangling, would establish a two-step approach to increasing the Treasury’s borrowing power.

If the Senate passes the House-approved bill, a second measure to increase the debt ceiling under the fast-track procedure would then be debated for up to 10 hours in the Senate, instead of open debate which can delay or kill. many bills in the chamber.

Passage by the Senate by simple majority would pave the way for a final House vote. Both houses are tightly controlled by Democrats.

The fast track for debt limit was included in a bill to postpone cuts to the Medicare senior health care program that would otherwise take place from Jan. 1.

By facilitating passage of an increase in the debt limit but not actually voting for its implementation, Republicans would be giving themselves ammunition to attack Democrats in the 2022 congressional election campaigns for raising the limit. $ 28.9 trillion in debt.

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Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, David Morgan and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone, Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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