Congress hits a ‘halt’ as December shutdown nears debt cliff
“Then make an offer!” Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Countered the grievances of his Republican counterpart over the financing plans proposed by the Democrats.
The next threat of closure strikes at midnight on December 3, when federal money stops flowing from the temporary spending patch Congress has decided to continue funding the government after the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. Another debt cliff is also expected as early as next month, as the Treasury Department has already exhausted the $ 480 billion in additional borrowing power granted by Congress three weeks ago.
As pressure is put on to reach deals on government funding and debt limit settlement by early December, the energy in Congress is undermined by bigger spending battles as Democrats scramble to ” adopt President Joe Biden’s social policy package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Shelby predicted Congress was heading for another interim spending patch on December 3 and likely another once that expires. Leahy said fate will be the work of the minority party.
âFor now, the offer is an ongoing resolution, which is a major cut in defense,â Leahy said, noting that another patch would deprive the Pentagon of the funding increase Republicans are seeking. “And if they are in favor of a major reduction in defense, that is their decision.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday that Democrats must complete work on Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion social spending program and Senate infrastructure bill before the party can devote its attention to annual government funding or act on the debt limit, to ensure that the Treasury Department can continue to pay the government bills.
Democrats still say they don’t plan to lift the debt ceiling using the reconciliation process – the only way to fix the problem without GOP votes in the Senate. âI don’t think it’s on the table,â Hoyer said. âWhether that’s completely out of the question, my point is that we need to deal with the debt limit. â¦ And we should be dealing with the debt limit in a bipartisan way. “
The nation could hit that borrowing limit as early as Dec. 3, or the Treasury could get tangled up for several more weeks or months depending on federal cash flow. The Bipartisan Policy Center, which consistently forecasts the debt limit threshold accurately, predicted last week that the Treasury Department would completely exhaust its borrowing capacity between mid-December and mid-February.
Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday that limiting the debt and preventing a government shutdown were “very urgent.” But he said Democrats needed to prepare their infrastructure and social spending bills before “we could devote all of our time and attention to these two critical issues.”
Not all Democrats buy this justification for the delay.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Who chairs the Defense Department’s spending committee, said Tuesday that “we’re making excuses here that we don’t need to make up.”
âI think we can walk and chew gum at the same time – actually,â he said. âThere should be a motto here: ‘Why do today what we can do tomorrow?’ It’s ridiculous. It is not just because of this Congress. This has been the case for several Congresses.
The way to kick off a final deal to fund the government, Tester said, is to find a compromise on the two totals for defense and non-defense spending.
âIf we get a front line number, the invoices are good to go,â he said. âAnd then you rock and roll. But just get a first line number.
Delaying a final funding deal undermines US national defense, Tester warned, pointing to “challenges” with China and Russia.
Across the aisle, Republican appropriators are also encouraging major party leaders to agree on overall funding totals. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is expected to become her party’s main official when Shelby retires next year, said the gap between the 13% increase Democrats are proposing for non-programs defense-related and the 5% increase for defense âabsolutely must be resolvedâ initially.
âFirst of all, we need to have higher revenue for defense spending,â said Collins, the top Republican on the spending panel that funds the Department of Transportation, as well as Housing and Urban Development. .
Collins noted that the House easily passed a defense policy bill in September that approved an increase of over $ 25 billion in military funding on Budget request from Biden.
âThe House has taken steps in this direction,â she said. “So for me, this is the biggest problem we need to fix.”
But Democrats are still busy finalizing Biden’s two biggest legislative priorities, which have already sucked the calendar for months. Congress leaders are pushing for a House vote on the infrastructure package this week after two failed attempts, while ironing out major obstacles to party unity on Biden’s social spending measure, including plans to reduce the costs of prescription drugs.
With breaks scheduled in both chambers before Thanksgiving, time is running out to sew Congressional business on core bills on Biden’s agenda, not to mention passing a list of bills from Biden. bipartite credits before the deadline of early December.
Shelby said on Tuesday that Democrats will first have to agree to removing liberal political priorities from their fundraising bills if they are to begin serious talks towards a final deal. This includes maintaining the Hyde Amendment ban on federal abortion funding.
âWe would love to work for ‘yes’, but not at any cost,â Shelby said. “We want to take all the social issues that they’ve put in place off the table. … Otherwise, the bill will never budge off the ground.”
Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.