House OKs short-term debt increase, but next steps murky

By George Cahlink | 10/13/2021 05:51 AM EST

The House last night voted to raise the debt ceiling until early December. C-SPAN

In a partisan vote, the House last night backed raising the nation’s debt ceiling until Dec. 3, delaying by just under two months a potential fiscal crisis and likely pairing the issue with year-end spending negotiations. A long-term solution remains up in the air.

The legislation passed, 219-206, with no Republican voting in favor. It would raise the debt ceiling by $480 billion and allow the U.S. Treasury to pay its bills through at least Dec 3.

President Biden is expected to sign the measure into law well ahead of Monday, the deadline for when the current debt ceiling is expected to be reached. The House returned from recess to move the bill ahead of next week’s deadline.

“We’re just hoping that we can do this in a bipartisan way,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ahead of the vote. She noted failing to act on the debt could potentially cost the nation 6 million jobs and $15 trillion in household wealth.

Republicans, however, insist they will not support any future extensions, a move that creates a major obstacle in the Senate where the GOP has the votes to block a future debt bill. Instead, Republicans argue Democrats should raise the debt in the partisan reconciliation bill they are currently writing.

"Republicans will not support raising the debt limit while Democrats try to push through a $3.5 trillion social spending plan," said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Pelosi said yesterday Democrats favor bipartisan action and would continue to resist moving a debt increase through reconciliation. Many in the party fear taking such a route would enable the GOP to link Biden’s agenda to soaring red ink ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Pelosi said a bipartisan idea that has “merit” could be shifting responsibility for raising the debt lift from Congress to the Treasury secretary. Under the plan, which has been floated for years, Congress could still vote to reject a proposed increase by Treasury.

The Dec. 3 deadline matches the date when current stopgap funding for federal agencies expires. Without new dollars or another stopgap in place by then, the government could be forced into a partial shutdown that would furlough tens of thousands of federal workers.

Lawmakers over coming weeks are hoping to negotiate a year-end spending deal that would include all 12 fiscal 2022 appropriations bills and avert a shutdown. The debt ceiling hitting the same day means that raising the borrowing limit could be part of whatever spending package emerges.