Pelosi Vows to Avert Shutdown as GOP Opposes Debt-Limit Link
(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled Democrats will avert a government shutdown by passing a stopgap spending bill without a debt ceiling increase in it, amid Republican opposition to linking the two measures.
“Whatever it is, we will have a CR that passes both houses by September 30,” Pelosi said at a press briefing Thursday, referring to the so-called continuing resolution that will be needed to fund the federal government at the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
The House passed a stopgap spending measure this week that would keep the government open until Dec. 3 and suspend the debt ceiling until Dec. 16, 2022. Republicans, however, are expected block it in the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes would be required to move it ahead.
At a news conference that included Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Pelosi said that the conversation on the debt limit would continue. Schumer separately announced that Democrats have a “framework” for a deal to pay for President Joe Biden’s economic plan, though neither he nor Pelosi provided any details.
It’s not yet clear when the U.S. Treasury could be on the brink of a default, adding uncertainty to how quickly Congress has to act. Yellen has said the government will probably exhaust its ability to avoid breaching the limit at some point in October.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats have plenty of time to use a partisan approach to raise the debt ceiling without Republican votes.
McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday that it would take Democrats “about a week or a little more” to use the so-called budget reconciliation procedure to raise the debt limit. Senate Democrats have so far resisted deploying that tactic, saying that the effort should be bipartisan -- as it has been in the past.
“This may inconvenient for them, but it is totally possible,” McConnell said. “This Democratic government must not manufacture an avoidable crisis.”
McConnell’s comments challenge House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, who said Wednesday that Democrats probably do not have enough time to raise the U.S. debt ceiling on their own using the fast-track budget process before the default date.
A budget expert agreed with McConnell’s view of the timetable.
“They could do it in less than two weeks,” said former Senate Budget Committee staff director Bill Hoagland, now with the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It would be tight but I believe they could do it.”
Democrats are not universally opposed to using the partisan path to raising the debt limit. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said in an interview with CNN he’d be open to using reconciliation.
“If we had to do it, I would do that,” Neal said, according to CNN. “I mean that the idea that America would default on debt is so far removed from everything I’ve ever entertained or thought of since I’ve been here.”
Other Democrats on Thursday suggested the same.
“I don’t draw lines in the sand. I want to get this done,” Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin said.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said Democratic leadership is exploring alternatives for the debt limit.
“I’m not going to let the government default,” Kaine said, adding that Democrats have voted under Republican presidents to suspend the debt ceiling. “But if they’re not going to be responsible, we still will be,” he added.
Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he expects “at the end of the day” the Senate will pass a stopgap government funding bill that doesn’t have a debt limit increase on it and that Democrats will move the debt-limit increase through reconciliation.
Reconciliation bills bypass the filibuster, removing the need for GOP votes in the 50-50 Senate, but have required procedures that take time to go through.
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