The House and the Senate both voted to raise the debt limit helping avert a first-time default by the U.S. as the clock ticks down on the government’s ability to pay its bills. This comes after months of fighting between Democrats and Republicans over raising the debt limit and spending in Washington.
The bill now goes to President Biden’s desk for signature.
The resolution introduced in the Senate on Tuesday to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion passed along party lines, 50 to 49. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said this would mean Congress won’t have to fight about raising the debt limit again until 2023 — beyond the midterm elections.
The legislation headed to the House of Representatives for a vote, which took it up after midnight Wednesday after voting to hold former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to appear before the House January 6 committee. The final vote tally was 221-209, with one Republican voting with all the Democrats.
Last week, lawmakers voted to fast-track the process to raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote, avoiding the threat of a filibuster. In the end, 14 Republicans joined every Democrat to proceed on the fast-track legislation, and the final vote on that bill was 59 to 35.
“As I have said repeatedly, this is about paying debt accumulated by both parties, so I am pleased Republicans and Democrats came together to facilitate a process that has made addressing the debt ceiling possible,” Schumer said Tuesday. The New York Democrat thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who “reached out across the aisle in good faith to bring us to this point.”
“No brinksmanship, no default on the debt, no risk of another recession: responsible governing has won on this exceedingly important issue. The American people can breathe easy and rest assured there will not be a default,” Schumer said.
Republicans vowed over the summer that they would not help Democrats raise the debt limit, despite addressing the debt limit several times with bipartisan support under President Trump amid escalating debt. A short-term deal to raise the debt limit by $480 billion was passed in October, pushing the deadline back into December.
Republicans have slammed Democrats for trillions in spending with the American Rescue Plan back in March and the push for the nearly $2 trillion Build Back Better social spending agenda. That legislation has already passed the House and has been waiting for the Senate to act.
“Later today, every Senate Democrat is going to vote on party lines to raise our nation’s debt limit by trillions of dollars,” McConnell said Tuesday before the vote. “If they jam through another reckless taxing and spending spree, this massive debt increase will just be the beginning.”
Every Senate Democrat was needed to pass the legislation.
The vote to raise the debt ceiling comes just one day before the U.S. could stop being able to pay its bills. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she was confident the Treasury could pay the bills through December 15, but there are scenarios where the government would not be able to pay some bills after that point. If the government were to default, she has said it would be catastrophic for the economy and would “eviscerate” the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.