Senate OKs extending debt ceiling until December; House approval needed

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday night approved a short-term deal to raise the country’s debt ceiling into December, putting Congress on track to avert a government default in less than two weeks.

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The measure, which passed by a 50-48 vote, now goes to the House. If the measure passes, it will go to President Joe Biden for his signature. Biden has said he would sign the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she may call the House back early to vote, CNN reported.

“We have also been working to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” Pelosi wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. “At this writing, the Senate is engaged in hours of debate that will lead to a vote to lift the debt ceiling,” she wrote.

In a news release, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House would return from recess on Tuesday to vote on the measure.

By a 61-39 vote, the Senate voted to break a filibuster on the agreement, needing 60 votes to limit debate. That number included 10 Republican senators. The final passage of the measure needed only a simple majority.

Approving a short-term debt ceiling will halt a financial crisis ahead of the original Oct. 18 deadline, The Washington Post reported. The U.S. government was potentially facing an unprecedented struggle to fulfill its own financial obligations, the newspaper reported

The debt ceiling is the limit set on the amount of money the U.S. government is allowed to borrow to meet existing legal obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries and more.

>> Deal reached to extend debt ceiling until December, Schumer says

The measure boosts the legal debt cap by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department estimates would be enough to allow the government to continue borrowing through at least Dec. 3, The New York Times reported. The current debt limit was reinstated at $28.4 trillion on Aug. 1.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned last month that the government faced the possibility of defaulting on its obligations for the first time in history if Congress failed to raise the debt limit before Oct. 18. In an op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal, Yellen said that a failure to lift the debt ceiling “would produce widespread economic catastrophe.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., advanced the idea of a short-term extension of the debt ceiling on Wednesday. It came after Republicans fought bipartisan efforts to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, with McConnell urging Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own. Democrats previously tried to extend the debt limit through 2022 as part of a spending bill aimed at preventing a government shutdown.

>> Biden signs legislation after House, Senate pass bill to avoid government shutdown

Announcing his willingness to negotiate a short-term deal Wednesday, McConnell said, “This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation.”

On Thursday, McConnell touted the deal as a way to “spare the American people any near-term crisis.” However, McConnell also reiterated that Democrats must use reconciliation, the Post reported.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has refused reconciliation as an option, calling it “risky” because it could take too long to complete, the newspaper reported.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called McConnell’s strategy a “serious mistake,” adding that he believed the majority leader “folded.” Cruz told reporters he was surprised by McConnell’s decision.

Moments before the Senate voted, former President Donald Trump released a statement urging Republicans not to vote for “this terrible deal.”

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