Senate inches closer to raising debt ceiling by $2.5T after party-line procedural vote
McConnell-backed procedural trick allows Democrats to raise debt ceiling without GOP votes
Congress came one step closer to finally raising the debt ceiling Tuesday when the Senate approved a procedural vote 50-49 on a bill to raise the debt ceiling $2.5 trillion.
The vote puts the chamber on path to pass the bill Tuesday afternoon. Then the House of Representatives is expected to quickly sync up with the Senate, sending the bill to President Biden's desk and averting a potential default after months of brinksmanship.
"Last week, we advanced bipartisan legislation that will enable this chamber to address the debt ceiling on a fast-track basis," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday. "The Senate will act [Tuesday] to prevent default."
Schumer said Tuesday the debt ceiling increase is expected to last until 2023.
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Nearly all Senate Republicans earlier this year said they would vote against any debt ceiling increase in protest of Democrats plans to spend trillions of dollars along party lines. Republicans insisted Democrats use budget reconciliation to raise the debt limit, which is the process they used to advance their massive COVID spending bill earlier this year and are using again their social spending bill now.
But Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., refused to use that process, which led to a standoff this fall between Republicans and Democrats that took the U.S. just days away from defaulting on its debt and causing an economic catastrophe.
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But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to a temporary hike in the debt limit that prevented default until December. He emphasized that Democrats shouldn't count on GOP votes to raise the debt ceiling again but still angered some in his party who saw the move as caving to Democrats.
Then, as the U.S. approached a projected default date again this month, McConnell and Schumer cut a deal that would allow Republicans to all vote against raising the debt ceiling without Democrats using reconciliation. They slipped language in a must-pass bill to prevent Medicare cuts that allowed the Senate on a one-time basis to raise the debt ceiling via a simple-majority threshold rather than with the 60-vote threshold it needs to clear on most bills.
This allows Democrats to use their 50 votes, plus Vice President Harris as a tiebreaker, to pass the bill without involving a vote-a-rama or the other procedural hurdles associated with reconciliation – which Republicans were going to help speed along anyway.
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But some in the GOP were unhappy with McConnell over the deal and wanted to keep fighting to either force Democrats to make fiscal concessions to raise the debt limit, or to do it on their own with reconciliation.
"I leaned ‘yes,’ when I first heard about it," Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said of McConnell's deal with Schumer. "But as I look at the calendar and the clock, I think we have more time to fight harder."
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.