Tense debt ceiling vote paves way for tougher fight
WASHINGTON – Suspense over the ability of Senate Republicans to muster the votes needed to end debate over a short-term debt limit extension on Thursday gives a glimpse of an even tougher fight later this year, so that Congress faces a December 3 deadline to avoid default and a government shutdown.
As part of a deal with the Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) Was to deliver at least 10 GOP votes to exceed the 60-vote threshold required to advance a bill extending temporarily the debt ceiling in the 50s. 50 rooms. Collecting those votes proved difficult, as Republicans had vowed to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own and were reluctant to give in.
Mr McConnell had presented the deal as removing the Democrats’ excuse that they did not have enough time to draft and pass a long-term debt limit bill without GOP help, thanks to a complicated process called reconciliation. While fending off the threat of default for the time being, it left many GOP senators furious about what they saw as an embarrassing reversal. They voiced their grievances in a closed-door meeting before the vote and on the Senate floor.
“One of the reasons I think it was a mistake on the part of the Republican leadership to give in to demands, hostage-taking, political terrorism on the other side, is that it harms considerably to the credibility of the Republican Conference, ”said Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) in a ground speech. “The Democratic leader is undoubtedly saying to every Democratic senator, ‘You see? They will not hold their ground. They will give in. ‘
“They have every right to pursue this, and we as Republicans have every right to make it difficult,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R., SC) said of the Democrats’ spending plans. “There was a change of mind here at the last minute, but we will do it again in December. “
The debt ceiling is one of the major deadlines facing a bitterly divided Congress in the months to come. Funding for the federal transportation program will expire on October 31, which is also the deadline set by House Democratic leaders to pass the roughly $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill championed by President Biden with his $ 3.5 trillion safety net project. The new debt limit is expected to be reached by December 3, when public funding will run out, raising the stakes even higher.
These delays have sparked confrontations not only between the two parties, but also within each party, as Republicans and Democrats compete over prices, policy decisions and overall strategy. On the Democratic side, disagreements erupted this week with Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vermont) and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) trading pikes over the size and substance of M. Social policy and the climate package proposed by Biden.
In the fight against the Republicans’ debt limit, the Senate GOP leadership had to rely heavily on its own votes and that of a few close and moderate allies in order to drag the deal Mr McConnell had proposed. across the finish line. The bill is now going to the House, which is expected to pass it next week, and the White House has said the president will sign it.
Senator John Thune, No. 2 to Mr McConnell, likened the difficulty of getting the votes to a “painful childbirth process”. After a day of uncertainty, he emerged from the GOP meeting reassuring reporters that leaders had the voices they needed, even as former President Donald Trump called the deal a surrender.
In the end, Mr Thune was one of 11 Republicans who voted yes, even though he is running for re-election next year. In a tense scene, he and Mr McConnell then hovered over the vote count in the Senate well and observed their colleagues closely as they stepped forward to twist their thumbs up or down.
Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), The Democratic whip, said watching Republicans struggle to muster all 11 votes left him worried about what would happen in December, when government funding and the limit of the debt should both run out.
“Playing with the debt ceiling is a disastrous political strategy,” said Durbin. “McConnell found out yesterday. I hope he doesn’t try to start over.
Highlighting the difficult task of GOP leaders, of the 11 Republicans who voted to move the bill forward, half were members of the GOP Senate leadership team or were part of Mr. McConnell’s inner circle. As minority leader, Mr. McConnell was among the first to vote, joined by Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), the former Republican whip, and Mr. Thune, the current Republican whip.
Also voting yes were Sens. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Rob Portman (R., Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), Susan Collins (R., Maine), Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), Roy Blunt ( R., Mo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.) and Mike Rounds (R., SD).
Mr. Barrasso heads the Republican Conference and Mr. Blunt is the political president. Three of the 11 are retiring and will no longer have to face the voters: MM. Blunt, Shelby and Portman. Ms Collins and Ms Murkowski tend to be centrist in their caucuses and both are used to allowing debt ceiling increases when necessary, as they did in 2014. Ms Capito is a moderate and close to Mr. McConnell.
Mr. Rounds, a former governor, is from Mr. Thune’s home state. He had told reporters shortly before the vote that leaders were still talking to him to gain his support.
“I think there’s the frustration, not so much about leadership – it’s about finding ourselves once again in a position of trying to deal with what we think is an increase in spending that happens to us and with which we disagree, ”while ensuring that the country does not default, Rounds said.
After the vote, Republicans bubbled over as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) accused them in a speech of bringing the country to the brink of default to score political points. Mr. Manchin, seated behind Mr. Schumer, squirmed uncomfortably. At one point, he covered his face with both hands.
Mr Manchin later told reporters that he disagreed with Mr Schumer’s speech. Republicans who had just taken hard votes also complained, with Mr Rounds telling reporters the speech was ‘classless’ and Mr Thune called it inappropriate.
Democrats scorned Republicans’ reproaches.
“It is just unreal that they thought they deserved applause for wooing economic disaster and then, at the very last minute, issued the absolute minimum number of votes to avoid it,” tweeted Senator Chris Murphy (D., Connecticut).
—Siobhan Hughes and Eliza Collins contributed to this article.
Write to Lindsay Wise at [email protected]
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